Fun in the sun gone wrong

By Haylee LaBell

As spring break approaches students should be reminded of the story of Alexis Fairchild and Syndey Good, two seventeen year old girls who were critically injured in a freak parasailing accident last July in Panama City Beach, Florida, when the rope that was connecting them to a boat broke away.

Sidney Good was parasailing with her friend Alexis Fairchild when the accident occurred. They were attached to one another when the rope connecting them to the boat broke, sending the girls crashing into buildings, cars, power lines and the ground below. Both Good and Fairchild were rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

Good suffered a cracked vertebrae and brain trauma, and was told by doctors that she may never fully recover. Fairchild, who suffered a broken back and head trauma was released from the hospital not long after the accident. She has had three cranial surgeries in the past six months along with back surgery.

Fairchild was originally told she may never walk again and it is a miracle that she is making progress today. She still  experiences head twitching occasionally and she is having trouble relearning simple things like brushing her teeth, or combing her hair.

Accidents like these are more likely to happen because parasailing remains an unregulated activity. According to the Parasailing safety council approximately ninety five  percent of all parasail fatalities result from the parasailors inability to escape or evacuate from a harness passenger support system following an unplanned water landing in high winds.

The chairman of the Parasail Safety Council, Mark McCulloh comments on the lack of regulations for the summer activity, and believes setting standards across the board is crucial in preventing more injuries and fatalities. He says on the Parasailing Safety Council website that steps that are being taken to begin to regulate parasailing, but it is a long road before all of the issues are completely resolved.

Some of these changes would include: limitations on parasail canopy size based on passenger support types; ie: body harness and/or Gondola, expanding penalty provision to include criminal charges against a Captain who is found willfully negligent in a parasail fatality, and mandating all parasail vessels be equipped with weather radar that delivers up-to-the-minute forecasts and storm alerts.

Similarly,  Gwen Margolis (Florida State Senator) is pushing for regulations that would include inspections of parasailing equipment, new rules that restrict rides during certain weather conditions, prohibiting rides in areas where there are fixed objects, like power lines and requiring operators to buy insurance.

While there aren’t any rules in place most operators are seemingly willing to follow safety regulations, including making sure ropes are replaced when they have been damaged from the sun and saltwater.

Alexis Fairchild’s parents sued the company that ran the outing, Aquatic Adventures, which is the largest parasailing fleet in the U.S. The company declined to comment on the pending litigation and the resort that held the activity expressed sympathy to the girls however they declined any further comment. Spring breakers need to take caution when getting into activities such as parasailing.

Although it is a common spring break activity, certain hazards present themselves because of the lack of regulations. Sadly for Good and Fairchild they may never recover to who they were before the tragic accident that they encountered last July.

Fun in the sun was all it was, until the two teenage girls saw their life flash before their eyes. The experience they dreamt of turned into a nightmare they would never forget. The two girls were enjoying the thrill of parasailing before their fun thrill ride turned into a battle between life and death.