Parasailing is a highly sought-after adventure sport in coastal towns and cities around the world, especially Florida. The appeal of flying high above open water with breathtaking views has drawn many tourists to parasailing, but not all companies that offer this experience operate with the same standards. Far too often, particularly in Florida, this can result in a parasailing accident that leads to catastrophic injury—or even a wrongful death.
Before you go parasailing, it is important to understand how the process works, the risks involved, and what to do if you are injured in an accident.
How Does Parasailing in Florida Work?
In the 1960s, a French engineer named Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne invented a brand-new type of parachute that made military training exercises more cost effective and safe. Lemoigne sold his design to a company that trademarked it as a “Parasail,” and thus the sport of parasailing began.
The government used these initial designs for military and aeronautical purposes, but they quickly gained popularity for recreational use. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, many companies expanded on Lemoigne’s initial design and transformed it into an appealing vacation activity.
For most people, parasailing is straightforward. This is because adventure companies that offer this experience typically walk you through a safety brief and explain how the harness works ahead of your ascent.
Before you go parasailing, you should put on a life jacket that is fitted and properly zipped and buckled. It is not common to wear a helmet while parasailing, although one may be provided.
Once you have your vest on, you will step into a harness that doubles as your seat. The seat should be positioned comfortably at the top of your thighs and underneath your bottom so that you have a comfortable riding position.
The harness will be connected to the parachute itself via secure carabiners and straps. After buckling into the harness, you should be ready for your ascent into the air.
What are the Risks of Parasailing in Florida?
Millions of people go parasailing each year without injury; however, the sport can be dangerous.
In 2007, a 15-year-old named Amber White died in a parasailing accident when the apparatus slammed into a hotel building.
Then, just five years later in the same Florida city of Pompano Beach, a 28-year-old woman named Kathleen Miskell died after she fell into the water during a parasailing excursion with her husband.
In 2020, there was another parasailing accident in Key West, Florida. Two people fell into the water while parasailing due to severe weather. Nicholas A. Haward—a 36 year old man from Costa Rica—passed away as a result of this accident, while the other victim was airlifted to the hospital with severe injuries.
Parasailing accidents come in many forms, including:
- Victims being pulled through palm trees,
- Hurled into buildings
- Falling into the water
You can sustain injuries such as fractured/broken bones, cardiac arrest, and head trauma from these types of incidents.
The weather is a major safety factor when parasailing in Florida. You should never parasail in inclement weather and should try to avoid any potential hazards. If the cloud cover is dark or if it is too windy, pick another day.
Due to the Pompano Beach injuries, the Florida government passed the White-Miskell Act which affects parasailing activities in the state. Because the weather so heavily impacts the safety of this activity, the legislation requires parasailing companies to log weather conditions before each ascent.
For parasailing accidents in Florida, this helps establish context for any legal proceedings. Additionally, it helps create safety standards and guidelines for companies offering the experience.
Weather aside, most parasailing fatalities happen when the tow line separates from the boat. Even after separating from the tow line, a parasailing chute can still pick up wind. This can cause the chute to drag the rider through and under the water, increasing the risk of whiplash and drowning.
When it comes to safety, choosing an established company is the number one thing you can do. Although positive parasailing statistics are in your favor and parasailing accidents are not common, it is still important to follow all the safety measures and exercise good judgment.
Choosing the Right Company
Not all parasailing businesses operate with the same safety standards. One of the biggest red flags to look out for is a new company with little experience. If you have the option to parasail with a more established company, take it.
To look for a reputable company, check out their website. Look for the following things:
- Contact information (Name, address, phone number)
- Videos or images of their services
- Company history
- Customer reviews
- Transparency surrounding their practices
In case of an accident, you need to be able to find the company/individuals responsible. There are many people who offer parasailing experiences but are not certified by the state. Any company you parasail with should have a state and city/county license to operate. If you ask for verification and they provide none, pick another business to work with.
Before you make your ascent, you should be careful not to ignore any uneasiness you feel. The crew should give you instructions on how the process works and should answer any questions you have. If the process feels hurried, unclear, or unsafe in any way, you shouldn’t go up in the air.
While it is the company’s responsibility to provide safe equipment and instructions, it is your responsibility to speak up if you are unsure of what to do. Parasailing excursions usually only last between 10 to 15 minutes, but you can run into dangerous situations that are worse if you don’t know what you’re doing.
What Should I Do if I Am Injured While Parasailing?
In most states, including Florida, parasailing operations are largely unregulated. When you travel overseas, there is even less regulation. The safety gear does not go through the same checks and inspections that something like a zip line or elevator goes through.
What makes these cases even more difficult is the sheer number of variables that can contribute to accidents. From poor weather conditions and faulty gear, to operator negligence and user error, multiple factors play into the activity’s overall safety.
This is why proving fault in a parasailing accident can be difficult without the knowledge of a personal injury attorney. If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries or death from parasailing, other water sports, or while on a personal watercraft in the United States, you should seek legal counsel.
Please reach out to the team at Zimmerman & Frachtman—we handle parasailing accident cases in Florida and around the country. You can reach us by filling out our contact form or calling (954) 504-6577. We offer free consultations and charge you only if we win your case.