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State senator to push for parasail regulations, with help from House member

A state senator says a recent parasailing fatality at Clearwater Beach could be the impetus to finally pass state regulations governing the industry.

Three previous attempts have failed, but Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, said his effort stands a better chance because he has found a co-sponsor in the Florida House, Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg. Previous bills were doomed by the lack of a House sponsor, he said.

Jones said his bill will include regulations for inspections and safety gear and insurance requirements. Law enforcement and industry representatives, including the Professional Association of Parasail Operators, will have input, he said.

The bill will be named after Alejandra White, the 27-year-old tourist from Georgia who died Saturday after a Labor Day weekend parasailing accident with her fiance at Clearwater Beach.

Former state Sen. Jim Sebesta, R-St. Petersburg, proposed parasailing regulations three years in a row, most recently in 2006. Each attempt failed. "I believe its time has come," Jones said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, said he will ask U.S. Coast Guard for recommendations on parasail safety regulations in the wake of White's death.

The Coast Guard, which issues permits for parasail boats, has declined to intervene.

"The Coast Guard is concerned about safety, but we do not have a clear authority to regulate parasailing equipment or operators," said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Moorlag. The Coast Guard doesn't regulate other recreational activities, such as waterskiing, scuba diving or charter fishing, he said.

But even parasailing industry representatives have called on the Coast Guard to begin regulating the industry.

Mark McCulloh of the national Parasail Safety Council, who once favored allowing the industry to regulate itself, said White's death shows that's not possible.

"This self-regulation does not work," McCulloh said. "Most importantly, it's been disingenuous to the public. There's going to continue to be accidents."

About 15 people have died in parasailing accidents in the past 20 years in Florida, McCulloh said.

Mike Stockwell, a co-owner of Gators Parasail in Madeira Beach, said some regulation is okay, but too much would hurt his business.

"I think that once we go down the slippery slope of regulation we have to be careful it doesn't get to be too much," he said.

State senator to push for parasail regulations, with help from House member 09/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:28pm]
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