Articles Tagged with “Parasailing Accident”

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Among all water-based recreation activities that Floridians participate in year-round, parasailing has proven to be the most dangerous. By the very nature of parasailing, accidents invariably result in either catastrophic injuries or death. Leesfield Scolaro with other key advocates have been at the forefront of promoting the passage of laws and regulations to increase parasailing safety. After numerous articles and blogs, answers have finally come with the recent passage of the White-Miskell Act, and, now, this week’s release from the NTSB’s Special Investigation Report: Parasailing Safety.

ira-leesfield1.jpgPromoting parasail safety has become a priority of mine since 2007 while representing the family of two teenage-sisters, injured and killed during a flawed parasail ride. This was national news and rightly so. Witness videos and photos showed the boat towing the parasail as it was pushed ashore due to strong currents and very high winds, and on the end of the towing rope, you could see the two sisters in the parasail, dangling dangerously high up in the air, at the mercy of the elements. Seconds later, the towing rope snapped and both girls were catapulted against several buildings, dragged across rooftops, and falling lifeless into palm trees.

After speaking with members of the Coast Guard, it became clear that human error was the common denominator in almost every single parasailing accident. Faulty equipment, inadequate weather-tracking equipment, operator error, or lack of training are always contributing factors of parasailing tragedies. There was no protection from the State of Florida nor did the Federal Government have any regulation in place to safeguard the public from irresponsible operators at the time. For years, the parasailing industry was a modern version of the wild wild west: Buy a boat, a rope, a chute, you are in the parasailing business! Things had to change.

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Yesterday, the Senate Committee pm Regulated Industries passed Senate Bill 320 by a unanimous vote of 9 to 0. Members of the Senate Committee had just finished hearing from families who have lost loved ones in parasailing accidents in Florida.

Thumbnail image for harness_parasailing.jpgAmong them, the family of Amber May White who tragically died in 2007 while parasailing with her younger sister Crystal. Leesfield Scolaro represented the family and a confidential settlement was reached out of court. In 2007, as it is true today, the parasail industry is absolutely unregulated. Despite countless voices begging for this activity to be regulated, the industry has been operating completely free of any rules. Parasail operators are self-regulated, which often translates in utter lack of safety and proper training.

While yesterday was the first optimistic step in the right direction, it is 7 years removed from the fatal accident that has changed the family of Amber and Crystal forever. Click here to learn more about the events in that case and the lawsuit that ensued.

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Each and every year, families and friends have to mourn the loss of a loved one or see a loved one sustain life-altering injuries. Each and every year in Florida, it seems that someone will become critically injured in a parasailing accident. The reason for this horrific spectacle is the lack of any laws to regulate the parasailing industry. Floridians and tourists from out of state and from all over the world purchase parasail rides year round. The parasailing industry is a very lucrative business, which is inherently dangerous if practiced in a less than perfect environment.

To that end, Leesfield Scolaro have pushed the legislator for regulations at the state-level to prevent preventable parasailing accidents. The incident which saw 17-year-old Sidney Good and 17-year-old Alexis Fairchild sustain catastrophic injuries is the latest of many preventable incidents. As long as Florida does not adopt strict regulations and force parasailing operators to answer to the law, there will be headlines in the news that another person lost their life due to the negligence of a parasailing operator.

Last year was the last attempt of many to pass a law to regulate that business, but the legislator failed, once again, due to the commercial and economic pressures put forth by special interests.

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According to the latest reports, both teenagers’ health are slowly improving and their respective doctors are expecting both girls to recover from their traumatic injuries. The family of Sidney Renea Good and Alexis Fairchild, 17-year-old girls from Huntington and Roanoke, Indiana, have shared that their daughters have both suffered head trauma and severe lacerations. However they are both communicating with their doctors and close family members with small hand gestures.

Earlier this week, Sidney and Alexis purchased a parasail ride with Aquatic Adventures in Panama City. While both girls were up in the air, the weather deteriorated and strong winds rolled onto the the shore. The rope of the parasail snapped and both girls, who were riding in tandem, were catapulted onto a condominium near the shore, before hitting a power line or a utility pole. They crashed seconds later on top of an SUV in a nearby parking lot. Both girls were breathing at the scene, but one of them was knocked unconscious.

Sidney Good Alexis Fairchild.jpgThe statement released by the family of the two girls reads as follows: “Alexis has severe back injuries and Sidney has neck trauma. However, we are fortunately seeing some positive signs from both Sidney and Alexis. Sidney has been responsive to caregivers and has been able to use small movements to communicate including a thumbs up for her parents. Alexis had surgery (Wednesday) on her spine and has also been responsive including a small wave at her parents when she returned from surgery. Our families are incredibly touched by all the support we’ve received from friends at home and from many people we haven’t met before who are praying for our girls. While the situation is still critical we are encouraged by these very small signs of progress. We have heard from so many generous people who have offered to help and we are working to establish a fund for the medical care of both Sidney and Alexis. We will have more information on that to come. Thank you again to all who are thinking of and praying for our girls. Your prayers are working!”

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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:

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In light of the latest parasailing tragedy that took place two days ago in Pompano Beach, a new push for safety regulations of the parasailing industry is to be expected and encouraged by all, especially Floridians who have become the forced audience of so many fatal accidents, all of which preventable.

When Ira Leesfield represented the White family, in 2007, after the death of Amber and the catastrophic brain injury to Crystal, her sister, Leesfield Scolaro engaged in a national awareness campaign which included appearances on the Today Show, and Inside Edition. The goal was not only to bring attention to the dangers associated with parasailing when precautions are not taken (they almost never are), but also and most importantly to push legislators in Florida and in other coastal states to pass laws and safety regulations at once. Two drafts of the Amber May White Act were introduced before the Florida legislators in 2007 and 2008, but both failed.

The death of Kathleen Miskell, a 28-year-old woman from Wethersfield, Connecticut, will once more sound the alarm to all who want to hear it. The self-imposed safety measures that the parasailing industry claims to be following are insufficient, inadequate and simply intolerable. On a daily basis, these unregulated businesses, often manned by incompetent and inexperienced individuals, place their customers in danger. The equipment used for parasailing is never inspected, the ropes used to tug the chute with one, or two, sometimes even three people, are improper and overused. Companies often use the same chute regardless of the weight or the number of people they are sending up hundreds of feet in the air. Yet, there is no accountability. Ira Leesfield reiterated his concerns to the Miami Herald, concerns that grow stronger with each and every parasailing victim Leesfield Scolaro represents.

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Last November, Bernice Kraftcheck and her daughter, Danielle Haese, were on a cruise ship parasailing excursion off the coast of St. Thomas. The tour operator, Caribbean Water Sports & Tours, sold a tandem ride through Celebrity Cruise Lines, to the mother and daughter couple and offered to take them up on their parasail for $80 each.

Five minutes in the air, the catastrophe occurred. The rope pulling the couple broke and the chute plummeted down in the water. While they were in the water, the boat continued to pull the chute, causing Bernice Kraftcheck to be violently pummeled by the waves before being rescued. Bernice did not survive her injuries. Danielle did survive, but sustained serious brain damage.

Leesfield Scolaro filed a $30 million civil lawsuit in February, 2012, against multiple defendants, including the boat captain and the parasailing operator for their respective negligence.

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On November 15, 2011, Celebrity Cruises Passenger Bernice Kraftcheck boarded the Turtle, a small boat owned and operated by Caribbean Watersports & Tours, a corporation based out of the U.S. Virgin Island, which offers parasailing excursions through Celebrity Cruises.

After the two cruise passengers boarded the Turtle, the weather became more and more menacing as the winds picked up in intensity and a heavy cluster of low clouds formed above the small bay where the parasailing experience was to take place. Despite the changes in weather and the dangerous windy conditions, the operator decided to launch Bernice and Danielle into the sky.

Moments later, as Bernice and Danielle were high up in the sky, the operator’s parasail rope broke, causing the tandem to plummet from the sky into the water. While Danielle sustained massive and catastrophic injuries, her mother Bernice sustained serious fatal injuries, eventually resulting in her death.

Read our earlier post on this accident here: Celebrity Cruises Terminates Parasail Excursion After Death of Passenger

Leesfield Scolaro has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Celebrity and against the parasail operator for their respective failures and acts of negligence. A copy of the complaint filed today in Federal Court can be obtained by clicking here.

For any media inquiry, please contact Ira Leesfield by email or by phone at 305-854-4900.

The parasailing accident attorneys of Leesfield Scolaro are nationally recognized for handling similar catastrophic parasailing accident cases in the past.

parasailing accident.jpgWithin the last five years, Ira Leesfield represented two minor sisters who also plummeted from the sky after the rope of the parasail broke off due to bad weather. One of the two sisters sustained severe permanent physical and emotional injuries. The other sister was fatally injured and despite the doctors’ efforts to keep her alive on a ventilator, she ultimately died after being in a coma for two days.

This case received national exposure with appearances on The Today Show and Inside Edition. In that case, the operator of the parasail decided to disregard weather warnings sent out over the radio to boaters and to ignore the increasingly menacing clouds and powerful winds. As soon as they were in the air, the two girls, as shown in the photo above, were dangerously close from the shore and the nearby buildings. The winds were so intense that the small boat pulling the parasail was almost beached. Ultimately, the winds were too strong for the subpar equipment, and the rope broke off, sending the two girls flying against the buildings behind them. They were uncontrollably catapulted from one building’s roof to another, before falling almost 40 feet to the ground where they were rescued by horrified witnesses.

In a more recent case handled by Thomas Scolaro, a young wife and mother sustained severe facial injuries and closely escaped losing her life by drowning after the parasail operator decided to send her up on the parasail in the middle of a forming storm, despite other owners shutting down their parasail operations at the same time.
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