Could Legislation Have Prevented Parasailing Accident?


Kathleen Miskell died after slipping from a parasailing harness in Pompano Beach, FL last summer, and dropped nearly 200 feet. Her husband was in the harness next to her. He's now suing the operator, seeking punitive damages, but he's also hoping to change the industry as well.

"There is no requirement that these parasail operators have insurance, and there is no requirement that they don't take passengers out when the weather is poor, and a lot of these accidents and wrongful deaths and catastrophic injuries are happening in bad weather patterns," said Miskell's attorney Karen Terry.

"Senate Bill 64" could have prevented Monday's tragedy in Panama City Beach.

The proposal would have required parasailing to take place at least 1,800 feet off shore. It would have shut-down operation in winds of 20 knots or more. And it would have required operators to carry up to a million dollars insurance on each passenger.

But the house version of the bill never passed. Opponents said it would add unnecessary expense to a private industry.

""When people come and they want to pay someone, pay a commercial operation for a service, they need to know that the government is there and regulating and keeping that industry safe. That is part of the job of government," said bill sponsor Senator Maria Sachs.

Local governments have only a limited amount of room to impose regulation

"We try and make sure they have a license, and we monitor if they do come to close to the shores. So we have some enforcement inside the city," said Panama City Mayor Gayle Oberst.

But most parasailing activities, as well as Monday's accident, happen outside of the city limits.

There are already plans to reintroduce some parasailing legislation during the next legislative session. And there appears to be more interest in passing it this time around.


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