After Pompano Beach deaths, effort launched to regulate parasailing companies

Sep 10, 2012

The following article was published in the Palm Beach Post on September 10, 2012: 

After Pompano Beach deaths, effort launched to regulated parasailing companies

By Ana M. Valdes

Two fatal parasailing accidents have led to an effort to regulate the largely unmonitored waterfront industry.

A bill that could impose numerous guidelines for the state’s parasailing industry — including strict inspection requirements and rules against operating boats during bad weather or after sunset — is set to be introduced in the state legislature next year, supporters announced Monday.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach), is named the White-Miskell Act, after two women who died in separate parasailing accidents in Pompano Beach within the last five years, It calls for increased regulation and inspections of harnesses, ropes and other equipment.

It would prohibit parasailing companies from operating when wind exceeds 20 miles per hour or when rain or heavy fog reduces visibility to less than a half-mile. In addition, parasailing operators would have to provide insurance coverage of at least $1 million per person and $2 million per event.

Failing to comply would be a second-degree misdemeanor.

Currently, the only requirements for parasailing are a boat license and U.S. Coast Guard approval that the vessel is safe. Equipment inspections are not required.

Sachs said at a media conference in Pompano Beach that regulating parasailing in Florida is crucial, given the death of 28-year-old Kathleen Miskell, 28 of Connecticut, who fell 150 to 200 feet into the water after her harness broke Aug. 15 and later died from her injuries.

In 2007, 15-year-old Amber White died off Pompano Beach when her parasail rope snapped, throwing her and her 17-year-old sister into the roof of a hotel and several trees. White’s sister survived.

“There are over 4 million trips a year on parasailing, and yet there are no safety regulations with regard to the harness system,” Sachs said.

While it is uncertain if Sachs will be in the state legislature next session — she’s running for re-election against state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale) in the newly configured District 34 — she said she’d work to pass the White-Miskell Act. Previous bills to regulate the parasailing industry have died in committee.

The district includes coastal areas from Fort Lauderdale to Boynton Beach. “If I can represent the coastal areas, and even if I don’t, I’m going to make sure that we get safety regulations for this most beautiful sport of parasailing,” she said.

 Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher,who also attended the press conference, said it was important that these regulations be implemented statewide.

“We have an east coast and we have a west coast and so it’s very important that we provide this legislation so when (someone) gets involved in parasailing, they know that they are safe and they will have an enjoyable experience, not a tragic one,” Fisher said.

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