The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday declared parasailing to be risky and urged the U.S. Coast Guard to require that operators be licensed.
"Passengers seeking to enjoy the thrill, adventure and panoramic views of parasailing risk becoming accident victims," the NTSB report issued in Washington stated. "Due to the nature of parasailing, accidents usually result in either serious injury or death."
In examining a series of accidents, the NTSB said "human error" by operators is the main cause of parasailing accidents due to "poor judgment, lack of sufficient experience, improper training" and other factors such as worn or poorly maintained gear, ignorance about overloading tow ropes and other equipment, and failure to monitor wind speeds and changing weather.
The NTSB said there are currently no uniform requirements for operator training, equipment inspection or suspension of operations in bad weather.
The Coast Guard, however, does not appear eager to get involved with licensing. Asked to comment on the licensing proposal, Coast Guard spokesman Carlos A. Diaz reiterated an emailed statement from his agency noting simply that it continues to work with the parasailing industry and government entities to improve training, safety and standards.
Some 3 million to 5 million people participate in parasailing each year, with about 325 operators in the U.S. and its territories, including Puerto Rico.
The Parasail Safety Council estimates that 73 people died in parasailing accidents between 1982 to 2012, with 429 seriously injured in the course of taking 130 million rides. Council founder Mark McCulloh said he "absolutely" supports the NTSB's recommendation for the Coast Guard to license operators.
The NTSB said requiring operators to be licensed "would not eliminate all shortcomings" but "would set a minimum level of experience and professional competence."
The NTSB report cited details on parasailing accidents since 2009 in which seven people died and four were injured. Some victims drowned as they were dragged through the water, others crashed into buildings or power lines, and one died when a worn-out harness separated from the flight bar.
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