On Tuesday July 3, 2013, two teenage girls from Indiana were vacationing in Panama City and purchased a parasail tour. While in the air, a severe storm began to develop and the two rope snapped due to the high winds. The two 17-year-old girls, Alexis Fairchild and Sidney Good, who were riding in tandem, were at the mercy of the winds. Not before long the parasail crashed into the side of a condominium. Seconds later, the girls hit powerlines or a utility pole before plummeting down in a parking lot. According to witnesses, both girls were limp, on the ground. Rescue rushed them to the Bay Medical-Sacred Heart hospital in Panama City. They remain in critical condition.
This incident is the latest of numerous parasailing accidents off the Florida coasts in the last several years. As is customary in shoreline incidents, the Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has taken over the investigation. The investigators released a preliminary statement that seems to corroborate severe weather developing before or during the parasailing activity: “Sidney Renea Good of Roanoke and Alexis Fairchild of Huntington were parasailing in a tandem harness over the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City Beach when an afternoon storm developed with strong winds.”
In 2007, two teenage sisters were also vacationing in Florida when they decided to take a ride up on a parasail. Like Alexis and Sidney, they were both incredibly excited. Several minutes into the ride, strong winds started to build up. The boat was pushed towards the shore line more and more and the two girls were helplessly dangling in the air, above the beach, near the buildings. See the video below:
Seconds after the video was taken, the rope of the parasail snapped and the two girls who were riding the parasail in tandem were thrown in-land by the force of the winds. They collided with a nearby building, and were dragged across the roof of another. Once they reached the edge of the roof, the chute of the parasail was no longer supporting them and they fell down into a palm tree, and then on the ground. Both girls were rushed to the hospital, but sadly only one of two sisters survived the incident.
The video below is a rendition of the incident as it happened. It was aired during our firm’s appearance on The Today Show:
Parasailing: An unregulated activity
The State of Florida does not regulate the activity and commerce of parasail. Anyone who has a boating license can purchase a chute, a rope and be in the parasailing business. The consequence is inevitable: preventable accidents will occur, leaving victims and their families begging to know why this had to happen. While Sidney and Alexis are fighting for their lives and hopefully on the road to recovery, the sadness of the families leaves others who have already dealt with the grief of a lost one with wondering in fury why this was not prevented.
An early investigation revealed that yesterday in Panama City, the weather forecast included severe winds, including severe gusts of wind, as well as deteriorating weather from scattered clouds, to cloudy and stormy. The operator of a parasail is not mandated to look at the weather forecast in the first place, and if he or she does, it is the operator’s discretion to send someone up in the air. In other words, toursists and visitors are at the mercy of a boat captain who often times does not have the proper training, and/or the proper equipment to provide for its customers’ safety first.
After another incident that occurred in the Summer of 2012, Ira Leesfield, who has litigated several catastrophic and wrongful death cases stemming from parasail accidents stated the following in the Miami Herald: “There’s no due diligence, no inspection. You just take your chances.”
You can read more about this article here: Deadly Parasail Accident in Pompano Beach – “There’s no due diligence, no inspection. You just take your chances,” Ira Leesfield says to Miami Herald
In the last several years, Leesfield Scolaro has represented several families who were the victims of the negligence of a parasail operator. While bad weather is typically the element that plays an important part in causing the incident, our investigations have always revealed that parasail tours pur profit above safety of customers. In many instances, we found that the type of rope used was inadequate, or that the size of the chute was inadequate for the weight and size of the customer. In every case, the victim or the family must live knowing that the incident was preventable and that the tour should never have occurred in the first place had all the warning signs been read by competent operators.