Florida lawmakers have in the past failed to pass basic safety measures designed to reduce parasailing injuries and deaths. In the 2014 session, they will have another opportunity to approve minimum safety regulations on one of the state’s most popular – and presently, dangerous – tourist activities.
Florida Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach) announced this month that she intends to re-introduce the White-Miskell Bill when the 2014 legislative session convenes on March 4, 2014. The bill – named for Amber May White and Kathleen Miskell, who in died in separate parasailing accidents in Pompano Beach, Florida – failed in the 2013 session.
“I hope our state leaders do not wait for another tragedy to strike before implementing the kind of basic safety regulations that could save lives and prevent life-altering injury,” says Jason B. Chalik, a Fort Lauderdale-based personal injury attorney and consumer advocate who has represented injured victims and families in half a dozen parasailing accident cases.
“The legislature needs to act now,” he says. “Our state can no longer afford to look the other way; tourists and our own residents are in danger.”
Mr. Chalik has long been an outspoken champion of establishing reasonable, state-mandated safety requirements for commercial parasailing operators. His firm’s petition to support the Amber May Law calls for basic regulations of what is currently an unregulated industry.
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If passed, the White-Miskell Bill will ban commercial parasailing in dangerous conditions, such as when a lightening storm is within seven miles of the area or wind gusts exceed 25 miles per hour. The legislation also establishes basic guidelines for safety equipment and the seaworthiness of vessels.
Sen. Sachs’ announcement comes on the heels of Florida’s latest parasailing tragedy. An accident on July 1 in Panama City Beach made national headlines when two 17-year-old girls were sent careening into nearby buildings and power lines. Authorities say the chain of events was set in motion when the rope connecting the parasail to the boat snapped. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says high winds and a strong storm were a chief factor in the incident. One of the young victims suffered spinal fractures, a skull fracture, and a brain injury in the mayhem. Family members anticipate a long road to recovery for both girls.
Florida has a long track record of parasailing injuries and fatalities. In the past 13 years, there have been 26 parasailing accidents in the state. From those, at least 35 people suffered injury and six died. Despite these statistics, state legislators have refused to pass any regulations on independent, commercial parasailing operations.
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A scathing Sun Sentinel editorial published on July 18 takes lawmakers to task for failing to implement even the most minimum of safety rules. The newspaper likened the state’s standards to those of a Third World nation where a lack of government oversight threatens consumer safety. The media outlet is just one of many calling for a much-needed – and speedy – change in the parasailing industry.
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