The recent death of a Connecticut woman who plunged into the ocean when her parasail harness failed has sparked a new effort to beef up safety protections of a largely unregulated industry.
On Monday, state Senator Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, announced new parasail legislation that will be taken up during the 2013 season.
The proposed bill is named after Kathleen Miskell, 28, of Wethersfield, Conn., who died over the waters of Pompano Beach, and Amber White, 15, who was killed in 2007 when her parasailing line snapped in windy conditions off Pompano Beach.
It would require insurance coverage and regular inspections of parasailing equipment and prohibit parasailing under certain weather conditions. The proposal also would prevent operation of the boat within certain proximities of power lines, wharfs, or other fixed objects.
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Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher joined Sachs at a press conference Monday, saying he has supported tighter regulations since Amber’s death.
“We are not giving up,” he said. “This is too important. It’s game on.”
Sachs – who was also joined Monday by House Representative Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed -- said there has to be some state oversight since Florida has as many as 120 parasailing companies operating during peak season.
Currently, all is needed to open a parasail business in Florida is equipment, insurance and a licensed boat captain.
Sachs said past efforts to get tighter restrictions failed, but she believes it will be different this time.
“We have a lot of people working on this,” she said. “This something the state needs to do.”
In 2007, after Amber was hurled into a beachfront hotel after the parasail line snapped, Senator Gwen Margolis (D-Miami) pushed a bill. It failed, she said later, because too many legislators feared over-regulation.
Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, unsuccessfully sponsored a similar bill two years in a row after Alejandra White, 27, died in Clearwater Beach in 2010 when the towline snapped, sending her into beach umbrellas and a volleyball pole.
Sachs’ bill is a “step in the right direction,” said Mark McCulloh, chairman of the Parasail Safety Council.
But, he said, in order to prevent fatalities, parasail companies must be required to have different equipment that is more water friendly.
McCulloh said he plans to work with lawmakers to “make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“I really think we are going to do it this time,” he said.
Kathleen and Stephen Miskell were on a tandem parasail ride led by WaveBlast Water Sports on Aug. 15 when Kathleen’s harness malfunctioned and she plummeted about 200 feet into the ocean to her death. Her husband survived unharmed.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and other agencies including the National Transportation Safety board still are investigating, said FWC Spokesman Jorge Pino.
The harness and other equipment are now in the hands of the NTSB, Pino said.
Also, the Pompano Beach Commission will pass a resolution Tuesday urging state legislators to pass tighter regulations.
Fisher read a statement from Stephen Miskell.
“Kathleen spent her all-too-short life helping others. She would be happy to know that this senseless tragedy may help other families avoid the pain and heartache that we and too many other families are going through.”