Parasailing accident in panhandle highlights lack of regulation

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Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 5:03 pm | Updated: 5:46 pm, Wed Aug 21, 2013.

SARASOTA, Fla. - An incident in Panama City Beach where two people were injured while parasailing is now raising questions as to just how safe the activity really is. The accident comes just two months after a bill died in the state senate that would have required much stricter regulations for parasail operators.

The video is terrifying to watch; two women, strapped to a broken parasail line, flying through the air and slamming into a building before landing in a parking lot. The women survived the harrowing ordeal, but now state leaders are asking whether more regulations are needed - regulations that those same leaders have repeatedly quashed.

“Everybody wants to be a daredevil, but you're not going to be guaranteed safety," says Suncoast state senator Nancy Detert.

Last year, state legislators introduced Senate Bill 26, which would have mandated parasail operators only operate in good weather and carry insurance. That bill died just two months ago, in May. Similar bills have been proposed in the past and have also failed.

As it stands now, parasail operators are not required to carry insurance, and all inspection of equipment is left up to the operators themselves. There's also no state agency that oversees the safety of parasail companies.

"We can have all of the rules we want, but if nobody inspects these places or checks them, I think that's part of the problem," says Detert.

But does an accident like this change the minds of thrill-seekers on vacation?

"I would probably do it again. I always felt safe when I did it."

“I would like to, but after what I heard, it kind of makes me think. Let me just go jet skiing instead."

"I'll still do it, absolutely not, I'd still do it."

State leaders say opposition to more regulations often comes from the parasailing industry itself. "I've sat in committee hearings and I've heard from all of the operators that when we look at regulations and we put some in place over the years, they all scream that they're going to go out of business, that this is terrible, they're just small business people," says Detert.

We did reach out to many of the parasail companies on the Suncoast to give them the opportunity to show us how they maintain safe equipment, what standards they follow and how they work to keep passengers safe. All of them declined our offer.

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