A Connecticut man was forced to watch this week as his wife's parasailing harness broke and she plummeted 150 to 200 feet to the waters of Pompano Beach, Florida. The operators of the parasailing boat quickly reeled the man in from the couple's side-by-side parasail wing and circled back to pick up his wife. She was floating face down in the water in a state of cardiac arrest.
According to local fire-rescue workers, the 28-year-old woman was given CPR by the crew of the parasailing boat until she was met by paramedics on shore, but she was pronounced dead upon her arrival at the hospital.
Tragedies of this nature may have several different contributing causes, alone or in combination: product failure due to design or manufacturing defects; inadequate training of employees; inadequate instruction of customers by employees; and unsafe operation.
This is the second recent parasailing death in the area, according to reports. In a 2007 incident, a 15-year-old girl was parasailing in tandem with her sister when their tether was snapped by wind. The girls hurtled down and crashed onto the roof of a hotel. The younger girl was killed, and her 17-year-old sister suffered head injuries.
According to a study by the U.S. Coast Guard, three people were killed in parasailing accidents between 1992 and 2001, and 64 were injured. Newer data may indicate an increase as parasailing continues to grow in popularity.
The parasailing industry is not expressly regulated by either state or federal law. Critics claim that lack of regulation is effectively a lack of any oversight at all, with the exception of a few voluntary safety organizations. However, like all other recreational industries it must act reasonably regardless of express regulation. Sometimes companies try to insulate themselves by liability waivers; however, the enforcement of those waivers is bitterly contested, since few people signing them would do so if they knew that they remove perhaps the last incentive for the company to engage in safe practices. Indeed, the threat of litigation is often one of the only factors encouraging safety, particularly in an unregulated industry.
"How many people have to die before they do something?" Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy for more robust regulation to be enacted.
The company involved closed the day after the deadly parasailing accident and made no comment.
• The Miami Herald, "Parasail company closed day after woman's death in Pompano Beach," Maria Camila Bernal, Diana Moskovitz and Carli Teproff, Aug. 16, 2012