Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Parasailing bill may be dead in water
Session may end without vote on SB 64

A state Senate bill that would place more restrictions on the parasailing industry barely got off the ground this year, and its House of Representatives companion bill never left the dock.

As of Wednesday, SB 64 was still stuck in committee and its future did not look good, according to the legislative aides of Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who sponsored the bill.

The office was still pushing the bill as of Wednesday, but her aides doubted it would pass. They would not say if the senator planned to reintroduce the bill next year.

The House companion bill, HB 245, never even made it to committee and died shortly after being introduced at the beginning of the legislative session in March.

The state legislation is not necessary because insurance companies already require similar protocols, according to Paul McGrail, who owns Sebago watersports in Key West.

A national group of watersports operators has agreed to regulations similar to those in SB 64 as part of a compact signed by the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA) last year, he said.

WSIA came up with the guidelines after the Coast Guard approached industry leaders about designing their own regulations.

The standards were created by ASTM (American Society for Testing and Material) International, an organization that develops voluntary technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems and services, McGrail said.

If the proper procedures are followed, parasailing is safe, he added. "We (the operators) have no problem following procedures that everyone has to follow," McGrail said. "We are fortunate. We have some of the best operators anywhere."

The bills were introduced after a series of fatal parasailing accidents.

In one case in Sachs' district, a 28-year-old woman died last August in Pompano Beach after her harness snapped and she dropped roughly 200 feet into the ocean.

The bills would prohibit parasailing operators from towing customers fly in rain, fog or winds over 20 mph. It would also require operators have radios aboard and monitor the weather.

An observer would have to be physically on the boat to monitor the weather and customers.

No more than three could be tethered to a boat at a time and state regulators would randomly inspect parasailing ropes and harnesses.

tohara@keysnews.com

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