Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Long-awaited parasailing law takes effect today

A high-profile new law regulating commercial parasailing in Florida goes into effect today, legislation years in the making after several parasailing injuries and deaths in Florida since 2007.

Key Sailing employees prepare to take customers parasailing on the Santa Rosa Sound off of Quietwater Beach in 2012
Key Sailing employees prepare to take customers parasailing
Known as the "White-Miskell Act," the law requires commercial parasailing operators to log weather conditions before embarking, forbids operations during severe weather conditions, requires operators to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard and limits operations near airports.

It is one of 32 laws signed by Gov. Rick Scott after the 2014 legislative session that will go into effect today.

Commercial parasailing operators on Pensacola Beach said that they have been practicing these new regulations for years, however, and the law won't affect the way they operate.

"I think it's just setting up rules for everybody to follow the same rules," said Roger Bevan, owner of Radical Rides on Pensacola Beach. "Most of the operators have been doing it for years. I hope it does help, though -- I don't like to see anybody get hurt."

Kirk Newkirk, owner of Key Sailing on Pensacola Beach, also said that the new law consists of rules that he and his staff already have been fol lowing.

"I really don't think there's a safer place you could fly than out here on Pensacola Beach with any of the operators," Newkirk said. "Really there's no change for any of us. I think (the regulations) are good for the fly-by-night operators or the low-budget operators that are just trying to make that last dollar."

The law is named after Kathleen Miskell, a 28-year-old Connecticut woman who died in August 2012 after she fell from a harness while parasailing over the ocean off Pompano Beach, and Amber May White, a 15-year-old Belleview girl who died in 2007 after a line snapped on a parasail, resulting in her hitting the roof of a hotel.

The industry came on board with the regulations at the urging of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, after two Indiana teens were videotaped last summer as they were seriously injured parasailing in Panama City Beach.

Bob West, director of public safety for the Santa Rosa Island Authority, said that although the law will be enforced by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and not the Island Authority, he is happy to see the regulations take effect statewide.

"There have been some real tragedies around the state, and there needed to be some guidelines," West said.

The FWC will work during the next few months to educate commercial parasailing operators about the new regulations so that there are no surprises, said Stan Kirkland, an FWC spokesman.

"As with any new law, we take a very measured approach to the enforcement of that law to make sure that everyone involved understands it," Kirkland said. "The priority is to work with parasail operations so that the public has the utmost confidence they're being operated in a safe manner and secondly, to avoid any serious incidents in the future."

By Kaycee Lagarde,

Source: Pensacola News Journal

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