Parasail operators stress safety after accident

Biloxi, Miss. - Captain Derrick Dupuy expects this Fourth of July weekend to be a busy one in Biloxi. The owner of Parasail Adventures has a big concern though: the weather.

"The rain chances seem to be high this week, I think Thursday and Friday, then they come back down Saturday to about 40 percent," he says. "So we can work with 40 percent, usually 40 percent mean it's going to be somewhere around here, but it may not be here."

Dupuy knows to keep an eye on the skies because a thunderstorm packing strong winds can be catastrophic.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating an accident on Panama City Beach. Two teens are in critical condition after their parasail came loose and tossed them first into a condo, then over the building into a parking lot.

Investigators believe a strong storm played a role, saying winds kept the chute aloft as the boat crew tried to bring the teens down to the boat. The towline detached, sending the chute flying out of control.

Dupuy thinks the boat stayed out just a little too long.  "It's just unfortunate because everybody wants to get that last ride, just one more ride, just one more ride but it's just not worth it," says Dupuy. "Because once that sail is up in the air, you really don't have no control over it if a storm grabs it."

Deadly parasailing accidents are rare. According to the Parasail Safety Council, out of the more than 3 million trips worldwide every year, there are about 12 to 20 deaths annually.

"The statistics of something like that happening are so small and we're out here to have a good time," says Karen Swift, a vacationer from Memphis. "We're here to have a few days of fun and so we're not going to worry about something that happened somewhere else that won't happen to us."

Swift and her family came from Tennessee for the holiday weekend. This is not their first time parasailing.

"They reel you out slowly so you feel secure," says Clara Swift. "Then when you're up there, you don't really think about anything but whoa, I'm up in the air, that's cool."

That rush will keep Dupuy's business booming all weekend as long as the skies stay sunny.

The Parasail Safety Council wants more regulation over the industry.

Florida lawmakers earlier this year shot down a bill that would ban parasailing when the National Weather Service issues a forecast for winds of more than 20 miles per hour. It would also have required boats carrying parasailers to stay at least 1,800 feet from shore.  That proposal failed in a senate committee.