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The Rogue Parasailing Industry Runs Wild…Again!

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.

On August 18, 2007, Amber May White, age 15, and her sister Crystal, 17, were on vacation in Pompano Beach, Florida. They decided to go parasailing for the first time in their lives. The resort at which they were staying directed them to the water sports provider at the hotel. Despite warnings from the weather service about high winds and seas, the parasailing operator took the sisters up behind the hotel. The boat was very close to shore and the girls were over 500 feet in the air when the winds pulled them onto shore. Despite pleas from Amber to bring them down, they sat strapped in hundreds of feet in the air. After several minutes stuck in the same place, the line holding the parasail snapped, hurling the girls into the roof of a nearby hotel, and then into the trees, where they had to be cut down. Sadly, Amber’s neck was broken. When she was airlifted to the hospital they determined that she was brain dead. She was kept on life support long enough for her mother, Shannon Kraus, to arrange for organ donation.

Because of Amber May, today there is a young girl with a heart and many others with Amber’s other organs. Sunday, August 26th would have been Amber’s Sweet 16 birthday. Instead of a party, her friends and family gathered at her funeral to say goodbye to this amazing young lady. Crystal suffered serious head injuries but, most important, has lost her sister and very best friend. The sisters were known as a “team” since they did everything together. Crystal was holding Amber’s hand to calm her when the parasail started to fail. The equipment used by the parasailing company was inadequate and faulty, the operator ignored weather warnings, and the parasailing should never have been within 2000 feet of land or structures. Nevertheless a precious life is gone that cannot be replaced.