Approximately 3.8 million people enjoy the sport of parasailing each year, according to Parasail.org. It’s one of the fastest growing adventure sports, available at nearly all of the major coastline tourist areas. There are approximately 240 parasail companies in the United States, with more than 650 boats providing a seagull’s view of sandy shores. Thrilling . . . but how safe is it?
The Parasail Safety Council, which has tracked injuries and deaths from the activity, reports that in the U.S. 73 people were killed and at least 1,600 injured between 1982 and 2012. That’s a low accident rate, but when a parasailing mishap does occur, it can be terrifying, with lifelong results.
You may recall the horrific accident in Panama City, Florida, in July of 2013 that was caught on video and viewed worldwide. Two teenage girls took a tandem parasail ride that had a tragic end. The tow line to the boat snapped, leaving the pair at the mercy of a gusting wind which slammed them into the 13th floor of a condominium complex and propelled them into power lines before they crashed into cars parked below. Both girls were hospitalized in critical condition in Florida and then were transferred to a facility in Indianapolis for rehabilitation. One girl’s spine was cracked and she sustained brain trauma that has left her with double vision and loss of peripheral vision. Her friend has had three cranial surgeries and extensive spinal surgery since the accident. She lost a large portion of her skull and still struggles with balance, mobility and learning.