Parasailing can be a fun an exciting watersport. It offers an unparalleled view of the coastline and sea while allowing you to soar alongside the pelicans and seagulls. It can deliver an extraordinary sense of freedom. 

However, like any extreme sport, it can quickly become risky if certain safety guidelines are ignored. Issues such as faulty equipment, inexperienced operators and poor weather conditions can quickly turn an unforgettable, uplifting experience into a terrifying nightmare. Learn why parasailing accidents happen, how safe the sport is, and whom you can turn to for help when a reckless operator injures you. 

How Common are Parasailing Accidents?

Parasailing accidents are relatively infrequent. However, the results can be devastating in the rare instances that they do occur. According to parasailing accidents statistics, between three and five million people enjoy parasailing each year. Over 30 years, the Parasail Safety Council estimates a total of 1,800 injuries and fatalities have occurred. On average, that is approximately 60 parasailing accidents per year.

When parasailing is compared to other extreme sports activities, such as big wave surfing, parasailing does not even make the top 10 dangerous sports.

Despite parasailing's relative safety levels, many things can go wrong and result in severe injuries or deaths.

On a parasailing trip, operators strap participants into a harness attached to a parasail canopy. A rope line runs between the participant's harness and the boat, which lifts the parasailer hundreds of feet into the air like a kite once the boat operator starts towing them. 

The Top Causes of Parasailing Accidents

One of the biggest risks associated with a parasailing trip accident is landing, such as strong winds that can snap the tether line and cause the participant to crash into a tree, building or the ground. However, many other issues can also be associated with parasailing accidents.

A Boat Collision

A boat collision can stop the parasailers' velocity, causing the canopy to deflate. The parasailers can plummet back toward the sea and crash into a boat or another object. Even a sea landing can cause catastrophic injuries. A free fall from hundreds of feet can also break bones and cause traumatic brain injuries, loss of consciousness and drowning.

Mechanical Failures

Mechanical failures can relate to boat failure or faulty equipment. If a harness breaks while parasailers are in mid-flight, the equipment failure could cause the participants to fall from great heights. If a towline is stuck and the boat operator cannot reel it in, the operator may have difficulty bringing the parasailers back down for a safe landing.

A Weak Towline

A weak towline could snap if the parasailing trip encounters strong winds. When a towline snaps, the parasailers remain attached to the sail canopy. They can be carried long distances in the wind and smash into objects such as boats, buildings, bridges, and trees. 

Even if the parasailers land safely in the water, they may not know how to swim. The parasailing company may not have provided them with life jackets or other flotation devices since the participants were never supposed to enter the water. Even a safe water landing can result in drowning deaths.

Boat or Parasailing Operator Errors

If the parasailing boat operator makes a mistake, it can impact the safety of the parasailers in the air. One seemingly small mistake could result in catastrophic injuries or death. 

Mistakes boat or parasailing operators could make include:

  • Failing to conduct a visual inspection of the safety equipment
  • Flying in poor weather conditions
  • Allowing too much slack in the towline
  • Releasing too much towline so the parasailers fly above the approved elevation
  • Failing to conduct a proper pre-flight safety briefing
  • Conducting parasailing activities too close to the shoreline

Any of these mistakes could result in a parasailing accident. If a negligent parasailing operation resulted in you or your loved one's injuries or death, speak with an experienced parasailing accident attorney

Poor Weather Conditions

On the ocean, the weather can change quickly. If you see a storm on the horizon, it is safest to save your parasailing trip for another day with less risky weather conditions. Storms are often accompanied by strong winds, rain, lightning, and lowered visibility. 

A tragic parasailing accident occurred in the Florida Keys when the towline attached to a young mother, her son, and her nephew was cut. The trio was blown away, eventually crashing into Old Seven Mile Bridge. 

In this case, a storm was on the horizon when the three vacationers embarked on a parasailing adventure. Their operator failed to check weather conditions before taking his passengers on the parasailing trip. When the winds picked up to gusts reaching 32 miles per hour, the operator could not bring the three passengers back to the safety of the boat. 

Parasailing Regulations in the U.S.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates parasailing flight activities, while the U.S. Coast Guard regulates the vessels that tow parasailers. However, neither body oversees the sport's equipment or passengers' safety while flying. There is little oversight regarding parasail operator training and regulating acceptable flying conditions. 

Businesses claim to train new captains in parasailing operations in five days. This training occurs in classes that are not regulated by a standardized parasailing industry organization or other reputable groups. 

The Parasail Safety Council offers parasail information but is not involved in regulating parasailing operators. They do urge potential parasailing participants to educate themselves before engaging in the sport.

Our Parasailing Accident Lawyers Are Here To Help

While parasailing is generally a safe and enjoyable sport, operators who lack experience, safe equipment, know-how and caution can create unnecessary risks. A reckless or negligent parasailing operator should be held responsible for the damage they cause. 

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a parasailing accident, contact the parasailing lawyers at Ratzan Weissman & Boldt to discuss your legal options.