The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a 33-page report regarding a special investigation conducted by the board concerning the safety of the parasailing industry.
The NTSB conducted eight investigations across the U.S. involving parasailers who were seriously injured or killed. Four of the incidents occurred in Florida, including the accident where our client, Alexis Fairchild, and her friend Sidney Good were seriously injured when the towline of their parasail separated and threw them into a building.
Findings from the Parasailing Safety Special Investigation Report
The report, released July 1, examined eight parasailing accidents that occurred in the U.S. and U.S. territories since 2009. Investigators assessed each accident and identified the risk factors that led to each injury or death. Several pieces of the equipment used in the accidents were examined for defects, damage, or poor conditions. The NTSB found several instances where parasailing equipment was misused and parasailing operators failed to inspect and repair or replace damaged or worn equipment.
In the conclusion of the report, the NTSB listed the following findings:
- Establishing a special license endorsement would not prevent all accidents due to human error, but it would set a minimum level of experience and competence for parasailing vessel operators.
- The American Society for Testing and Materials (ATSM) International’s standards need to have the same force and effect as a regulation for the standards to be as effective as possible.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should request assistance from the Coast Guard to enforce existing FAA regulations.
- Current above ground level limits applied to parasailing operations and the hierarchy of aircraft passing over parasailing vessels are confusing and conflict with current regulations.
- Developing and promoting a model act focused on training, operational safety, and equipment unique to parasailing operations would assist in developing standards and regulations, as well as raise awareness of the risk associated with parasailing activity.
In light of these findings, the NTSB recommended that the U.S. Coast Guard implement a special license endorsement that holders of a merchant mariner credential must obtain before conducting parasailing operations. Additionally, ASTM International’s parasailing standards should be incorporated to govern parasailing operations.
The investigation committee recommended that the Coast Guard joins the FAA in enforcing current regulations regarding parasailing operations, that these regulations and special provisions are reviewed to ensure consistency and national application, and that conflicts are resolved between the existing FAA provision giving aircraft the right-of-way over parasailing vessels.
Finally, the NTSB investigation calls upon the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators to draft a model act for use by their membership as a framework for state-specific legislation mitigating parasailing risk.
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More Work is Necessary to Reduce Parasailing Accidents
The NTSB investigation is a step in the right direction for parasailing regulation and it comes on the heels of our June 2014 victory with the passing of the White-Miskell Act in Florida. The case of Kathleen Miskell, for whom the White-Miskell Act was partially named, was one of the eight cases investigated in the report and helped in the development of several new parasailing regulations.
Our recent client, Alexis Fairchild, who suffered serious injury in a July 2013 parasailing accident in Panama City Beach, was the most recent accident case to lend evidence to the study. It is thanks to the cooperation of victims like Alexis, advocacy from government officials like State Senator Maria Sachs, and the support of South Floridians that we have won a critical fight in obtaining better regulation of the parasailing industry in our state.
At Chalik & Chalik, it is our hope that the new safety alert for tow ropes and three new sets of safety recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, FAA, and NASBLA prevent other parasailing accidents from occurring. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of parasailing operators to follow these regulations and recommendations to ensure the safety of their passengers.
If you or a loved one have been injured or you have lost a loved one in a parasailing accident, Chalik & Chalik is here to help. Call 855-529-0269 or reach out to us via our contact form.
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