Parasail Victim To Testify At Feb. Senate Hearing, Supports Bill Regulating Industry

Jan 23, 2014

An Indiana teenager who was injured in a Panama City Beach parasailing incident last summer is suing the company responsible, and is expected to testify at a committee hearing next month in favor of a bill that could help put uniform safety standards in place for Florida’s parasailing industry.

Parasail Bill Hearing

If you asked Delray Beach Democratic Senator Maria Sachs if she’d parasail now, her answer would be “no.”

“I’ve been up in a parasail, and I never thought of the dangers that were inherent in the sport. I knew it was exciting and that’s part of the reason that people like to go up and participate in parasailing. I would not go up now. After this bill is passed and it becomes law, then I would look forward to taking a victory ride up in a parasail afterwards,” said Sachs.

There are currently no concrete regulations in place for the state’s parasailing industry, and Sachs is hoping to change that with a bill that’s expected to get its first Senate hearing in less than two weeks.

“What we want to make sure is that when someone participates in this great sport, that they have minimum amount of insurance and the basic safety structure not going up when the weather is rough or a lightning storm within seven miles,” added Sachs.

Alexis Fairchild Supports Bill, Lawyer Talks Suit

Sachs' bill has strong support from Alexis Fairchild and her family, according to their lawyer Jason Chalik. Last summer, the 17-year-old Hoosier and her friend Sidney Good were hurt in a parasailing accident after their rope snapped. They then hit a condo building, a power line, and a parked car. The Coast Guard has said severe weather and the boat's close proximity to shore were major factors in the accident.

The blustery wind and witnesses’ reaction can be heard in a cell phone video captured during the incident, but Chalik says new evidence has surfaced that shows the negligence of the parasail operator.

“We were actually just at the Coast Guard in Panama City and discussing the case with them. We’ve seen photographs of the snapped rope. We’ve seen actually new video that we’ve never seen before showing the actual rope snapping, and the girls flying into the building and into the car. And, so was one of our allegations is the rope that was used was inappropriate for the wind conditions that day,” said Chalik.

Since the accident, Chalik says Fairchild has undergone three skull surgeries, had four bones in her spine fused together, and is in constant pain. He says she still has hospital visits ahead of her, which are expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars—part of the reason the family filed suit in Bay County. But Chalik says for now, the injured teen hopes positive change can come from her injuries.

“So, our client Alexis Fairchild is looking forward to going to Tallahassee in February, speaking before one of the Senate committees regarding this bill, and she hopes that out of her tragedy, that no other family would have to go through this,” Chalik added.

The family is suing parasail company, Aquatic Adventures Management Group, and the hotel where the parasailing activity was based and where Fairchild stayed. Since the suit was filed last week, Chalik says he’s been in contact with the parasailing company’s lawyer.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.