The best that can be said about the parasailing accident over the weekend at Clearwater Beach is that no one was killed. It is another reminder of the inherent risks of this sort of thrill-seeking, and the Legislature needs to establish minimum safety requirements for this largely unregulated entertainment.
A 27-year-old Georgia woman was seriously injured after her tow line snapped in high wind. Investigators say the boat's operator was pulling a couple when the winch let loose all of the line, and the line snapped when it was fully extended. The man removed his harness and fell into the water, but the woman remained in her harness and was dragged to the ground. She hit beach umbrellas, chairs and a post for a volleyball net. This was an avoidable accident, because the couple never should have been in the air in the first place.
Other parasail operators along the Pinellas beaches already had stopped operations on Sunday afternoon as storm clouds and heavy winds built up in the gulf. Instead, the operator of the Clearwater Beach business continued to take customers and ignored the warning signs. The combination of the operator's poor judgment and high winds resulted in another accident that could have been deadly.
At least three times in recent years, legislation has been filed to tighten regulation and ban parasailing in high winds. The proposals never went anywhere, despite an estimated 15 deaths in parasailing accidents over the years in Florida. Now even the national Parasail Safety Council acknowledges that voluntary policing of the business has failed and it is time for more formal regulation.
Tourists and thrill seekers accept some risk when they try parasailing, and no regulations can compensate for poor judgment by operators focused more on profits than safety. But the track record is clear. Last weekend's accident serves as another reminder that the Legislature needs to establish reasonable requirements for policing parasail operators and protecting their customers.