Beebe and O'Neil

Be safer when parasailing over Connecticut beaches

Summer is a great time for Connecticut families to head to the seashore for a little R&R. Whether you are the active type who likes to surf the waves or prefer to chill on the beach with an umbrella drink, there are many activities for families vacationing down on the shore.

One activity that fascinates beachgoers of all ages is parasailing. Flying high in a harness above a boat bobbing on the waves, you get a bird's-eye view of the Atlantic Ocean shoreline. It certainly looks like a fun way to while away an afternoon at the beach.

But is it safe?

That's the question would-be parasailers need to ask. In an industry with no federal or other oversight, the answer varies quite a bit. Since there is no agency overseeing the industry, parasailers' fates literally lie in the hands of the parasailing company owner and the boat captain at the helm.

The vast majority of parasailers complete their flights without a problem. Of course, if you are hundreds of feet above the water, all it takes is one error in judgment or equipment failure to send you plummeting to an almost certain fate of catastrophic injuries or even death.

Be proactive about safety

There are actions that parasailers can take to decrease their risk of injuries. They include the following:

  • Inspect the equipment and boat. Parasailers are only as safe as the equipment used to tow them. Signs of weathered equipment could put you at much higher risk of injury or death.
  • Choose a reputable company. Since virtually anyone with a boat and a towrope can hang out a shingle as a parasail operator, make sure you choose a reputable company that is based locally so that you have legal recourse in the event of an accident.

Regardless of the company you choose for your flight, there are some basic pre-flight safety routines that the parasail operator should go over with you. The operator should explain the risks of parasailing and teach you some basic hand sign communications to use while up in the harness.

The operator should also instruct all flyers on how to safely land in the water after the flight. Operators should address their rescue operations and survival techniques in case of an emergency.

Weather precautions

Greedy operators may be so eager for tourist dollars that they offer flights when inclement weather is moving in. A parasailer is at high risk of electrocution by lightning from nearby storms, or of being battered by gusts of wind. Make sure that the skies are clear and the forecast is sunny before you ever agree to go aloft.

If the worst occurs . . .

If you are injured in a parasailing accident, your injuries may be permanent and disabling — if you survive the impact. It's far more than a ruined vacation you have to worry about if you get hurt while parasailing. You may need to file a claim for damages to recoup any financial losses stemming from the accident.

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