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Panama City Accident Brings Questions for Parasailing Industry

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Two teenage girls from Indiana are still in critical condition but are making progress after a parasailing accident in Panama City Beach caused the girls to be slammed against a condo and later into a car in a parking lot.

Sidney Renea Good, 17, of Roanoake, Ind., and Alexis Fairchild, 17, of Huntington, Ind., were vacationing in Panama City Beach when a parasail ride took a turn for the worse. The line from their parasail snapped and winds from a strong storm carried the girls towards a beach condominium. The girls were first slammed against the side of the condominium, then carried through nearby power lines, and ultimately crashed into a car parked in the parking lot.

Several parasailing accidents in recent years have brought scrutiny to this popular water sport. Mike Stockwell is co-owner of Gators Parasail in Madeira Beach. Stockwell said his company has been operating for five years and has never had an accident. He attributes this to his company’s strict safety policies.

“There is a page-and-a-half maintenance checklist that the Captain has to go through to verify that the parasailing vessel is safe to be operated,” said Stockwell.

The checklist isn’t all. According to Stockwell, Gators Parasail has all of their vessels inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard annually and he recommends all parasail operations do the same.

“One step that could be done before parasailing standards are put into place, and any other legislation, is making it so that all parasailing vessels are inspected annually by the Coast Guard,” said Stockwell.

Florida lawmakers have previously proposed legislation that would regulate the parasailing industry and issue standards of safety such as appropriate parasailing weather conditions, equipment standards, and vessel inspections. All previous attempts at passing any legislation have failed but some believe in light of recent events lawmakers may consider trying again. Stockwell said he believes if lawmakers pass legislation he hopes they would take into consideration the standards the industry has created.

“I would hope that when the standards are put in place if there’s any legislation that’s brought forward that that legislation would be crafted around the standards that the industry along with the ASTM have put together,” said Stockwell.

Stockwell serves in a committee for the American Society for Testing and Materials and supports more safety enforcement in the parasailing industry.

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