Parasailing Safety Questioned following Mishap


0  Updated at 12:22 pm, July 3rd, 2013 By: ABC Digital
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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The safety standards for a popular vacation sport have been called into question after a parasail containing two teenage girls broke loose from a boat, slamming them into two nearby condominiums in Panama Beach, Fla.

Alexis Fairchild and Sidney Good, who were visiting Florida from Indiana, remain in critical condition at an area hospital. The two 17-year-olds collided with a condominium building, the Commodore, and hit power lines. Powerful winds also caused them to hit several cars in a parking lot.

Parasailing is an industry with very little regulation. Since 1998 there have been 33 incidents involving parasailing in Florida alone — with six fatalities. This has led many to call for new standards for the sport.

“If we can produce national safety standards, for this industry so that they can apply these in the field of course we would hope that the net result of all this work be fewer accidents,” Larry Meddock with Water Sports Industry Association and The Expert Institute told ABC News.

In May, Florida legislatures failed to pass a bill that would have put new safety standards in place. One of the biggest opponents was Aquatic Adventures, the owner of the boat involved in the incident that left Fairchild and Good in critical condition.

“We’ve started creating our own standards … We’ve got a good plan going,” James Vaught, a managing partner at Aquatic Adventures told The News Herald about his opposition to the bill.

Bill Denny, a witness who was staying in the Commodore, told ABC News that the girls were found under vehicles in the condominium’s parking lot, slumped over and unresponsive.

“It was surreal; I was in shock,” said Denny. “Everyone down below us was screaming at the top of their lungs.”

Joseph Lyons, another witness, described the incident and the girls’ conditions as one of the worst things he has seen in his life. “It made me sick to my stomach,” said Lyons.

In its statement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said that an afternoon storm developed while the girls were parasailing.

“Winds kept the chute aloft and several attempts to winch the riders back onto the vessel failed,” the statement said. “The anchor was set to keep the boat from being pulled onto shore. The towline detached and the riders were helpless to control the chute.”

An online fundraiser has been established to defray Fairchild and Good’s medical costs, and had raised nearly $5,000 as 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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