Articles Posted in Unregulated Industry

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For the first time ever, Florida’s parasailing businesses have to comply with safety regulations.

Florida Statute 327.02 (“Miskell-White Act”) requires commercial parasailing operators to log weather conditions before beginning each parasailing, forbids operations during hazardous weather conditions, and requires operators to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard. It also requires minimum liability insurance, which has plagued this industry where fly-by-night operators opened and closed their businesses at will. Previously this was a completely unregulated industry where anyone with a boat, tow rope and parachute could charge money to take people aloft under any conditions.

John Leighton and our client Shannon Kraus (mother of Amber May White) fought tirelessly for seven years to see this law come to fruition. It is a result of almost yearly tragedies that have occurred during parasailing activities in Florida. In 2007, Shannon lost her 15 year-old daughter Amber May White, for which the new law is named. Amber May’s tragedy just foreshadowed years of repetitive injuries and deaths until Florida’s legislature finally took action.

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We love our thrill rides. Well, at least until they provide real-life thrills. These are the type of thrills that injure and kill. While amusement and theme park rides are advertised as “thrilling” and “fun,” often they prove deadly. Numerous amusement park deaths are caused by roller coaster crashes. Because there is no centralized reporting or investigative agency, most of the time the only investigation into the cause of a catastrophe is by the ride operator itself.

in 2011 there were 1200 amusement ride accidents in the U.S., with about 4% resulting in serious physical harm or death. A study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio reported that between 1990 and 2010, 92,000 children were injured in amusement ride accidents.

This summer there have been examples of ride gone awry. Yesterday a power outage at Orlando’s Disney World stranded 120 passengers on the monorail who were stuck for hours in the un-air conditioned ride. http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/13/us/florida-disney-monorail-evacuated/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

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Despite passage of the nation’s first law regulating parasailing, many who operate parasailing businesses still care more about cash than lives. The law, which goes into effect October 1, limits when parasailing can take place, the wind speeds and when there is lightning within 7 miles. Operators must review all weather forecasts available and keep a weather log.

Over the July 4th weekend the waters of South Florida were replete with instances of parasailing which violates the spirit and letter of the impending new law. The example here, from Miami’s Biscayne Bay, make it obvious that the operators are more interested in making money than in protecting vacationers. With threatening skies, high wind gusts and frequent lightning, there were few pleasure craft in the water on July 5th. But sure enough there were plenty of parasailing operations!

VACATION TIP: Never get on a parasailing operation without checking the weather, determining that the operator holds a Coast Guard license for transport of passengers, maintains a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance, maintains a VHF transceiver and a separate marine weather device providing National Weather Service updates and maintains a log of all weather prior to taking passengers out. Make sure that the operator is familiar with and complies with new Florida statute 327.375 governing commercial parasailing, also known as the White-Miskell Act.

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Shannon Kraus is a mother on a mission. Seven years after the death of her 15 year-old daughter and a brain injury to her 17 year-old, Shannon has succeeded in getting some measure of parasailing regulation passed in Florida.

Working with her attorney, John Leighton of Leighton Law, P.A., and countless hours of meetings with state and local legislators, plus continued parasailing injuries and deaths each year, the Florida Legislature finally passed a law to regulate parasailing safety:

http://www.actionhub.com/news/2014/06/24/florida-governor-signs-parasailing-bill-law/

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Parasailing tragedy.jpgDavid Sierazki, age 31, is the latest victim of the STILL unregulated parasailing industry. He died last week in the second parasailing fatality in the Tampa Bay area in a year. The engine died in the boat that was pulling him, and he plunged from 800 feet up into the water. When pulled out, he was unconscious and unresponsive, and was later pronounced dead after unsuccessful CPR attempts.

“I can’t believe we haven’t gotten smarter as an industry,” said Mark McCulloh, chairman of the Parasail Safety County, who was quoted in a Tampa Tribune article on the incident.

McCulloh said the industry needs strict rules for parasailing, including maximum wind speed allowances, height restrictions, equipment inspection and tow lines.

Florida legislators have failed to address this continuing problem and need to pass the Amber May Law to bring some regulation to this rogue industry.

As reported by The Today Show, fifteen-year-old Amber May White died while parasailing from head trauma along with internal injuries, sustained when she crashed into a building when the parasail on which she was riding snapped, while vacationing with her family in Pompano Beach, Florida. Amber May’s sister Crystal also suffered head injuries in this tragedy. John Elliott Leighton represented the family in the lawsuit against the parasail operators and the resort where Amber May was killed. Mr. Leighton has spearheaded legislative efforts to bring some regulation to this rogue industry. His efforts in Tallahassee have resulted in a bill which he and the family hope to make law this year.
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© Tobias Wenov | Dreamstime.com

FL vacation home.jpgThis year, Florida Legislature will review several bills filed regarding the state’s $60 billion tourism industry:

• A bill designed to preempt any future efforts to regulate vacation homes as if they were hotels or motels • Stiffer penalties for people who distribute fliers on hotel properties (The Safety Act of 2011)

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The Parasail Safety Council estimates that there were more than 384 parasailing accidents in the USA from 1980 through 2009 — 83 of which resulted in serious bodily injury and 28 in death. These statistics are based United States Coast Guard reports, state and local law enforcement, local reporting agencies, individual accident reports, eye witness accounts from parasail operators, and other sources deemed reliable. Parasailing tragedy.jpg

There are currently no licensing requirements, qualifications or industry standards to become a parasail operator. This encourages rogue operators to prioritize profit over safety.

SIGN THE PETITION in support of The Amber May Law to regulate the parasailing industry.

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© Anthony Aneese Totah Jr | Dreamstime.com

Parasail silhouette.jpgUPDATE: The 27-year old Florida vacationer from Georgia whose parasail crashed into the sand, dragged her along the beach, and slammed her into beach umbrellas and a volleyball court post during Labor Day weekend… has died. Six days after parasail operators launched her and her fiance into 34 mph gusting winds over Clearwater Beach, she lost her life from the resulting injuries.

There are no laws regulating when parasailing companies can or cannot take customers out on the water, despite the string of parasailing accidents that continue to be reported.

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In yet another example of a rogue industry run wild, a parasailing catastrophe was averted only by sheer luck. On Monday June 7, 2010, the state of Florida witnessed two more injuries occurring from the unregulated parasailing industry. The Miami Herald reported that a father and his six-year-old daughter were bounced across the water into a sea wall when their parasail malfunctioned east of Miami’s Bayside Marketplace. They were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital for treatment of what fortunately were only bumps and bruises.

“Their injuries could have been much worse,” said Jorge Pino, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Pino said that authorities are looking into whether the tow rope snapped or if a person from the boat cut it.

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This incident is all too familiar and only reinforces the urgent need to pass the Amber May Law, to bring some regulation to this rogue industry. As reported by The Today Show, fifteen-year-old Amber May White died while parasailing from head trauma along with internal injuries, sustained when she crashed into a building when the parasail on which she was riding snapped, while vacationing with her family in Pompano Beach, Florida. Amber May’s sister Crystal also suffered head injuries in this tragedy. John Elliott Leighton represented the family in the lawsuit against the parasail operators and the resort where Amber May was killed. Mr. Leighton has spearheaded legislative efforts to bring some regulation to this rogue industry. His efforts in Tallahassee have resulted in a bill which he and the family hope to make law this year.
Continue reading →