Parasail Safety Council  Main Office The Clayton & McCulloh Office Building  1065 Maitland Center Commons Blvd. Maitland, FL 32751  Telephone with Voicemail:  (407) 494-6490    Mailing Address Parasail Safety Council c/o Mark McCulloh 7557 West Sand Lake Rd, # 139., Orlando, FL 32819 Email Address:    ©   1998-2013  Mark McCulloh - All Rights Reserved Website design and hosting provided by
HOME HISTORY OF PARASAILING GLOSSARY MANUFACTURERS ACCIDENT STATISTICS NEWSROOM FAQ's CONTACT US STUNNING Parasail HISTORY Timeline  FROM 1961 to 1999 1960’s 1970's 1980-1984 1985 1986-1987 1988-1989 1990-1994 1995-1999
Impassioned by the sport of (para-sailing) since age 15, Mark McCulloh of Miami Florida, became an accomplished parasail inventor, motivational speaker and entrepreneur Mark is internationally recognized as the original inventor of most modern day parasailing equipment beginning with the worlds first offshore parasail platforms which McCulloh replaced  with the legendary Winchboat tow vessel.  Nothing revolutionized the sport worldwide and ensured commercial parasailing as a viable business more than this invention. His experience spans four decades of parasail equipment designs, innovations, and training techniques with a focus  on improving the safety of parasailing and the enjoyment of the experience.  McCulloh holds the distinction as being the most recognized parasail industry expert in the world, having testified before both state and federal courts  in every major accidental death and serious injury case in the US and surrounding territories.    Looking back McCulloh says he had little idea forty years ago of the impact his inventions would have on the commercial aspect of the industry in general.  He is still surprised and still inventing !
We take you on a visually stunning event-based parasail history tour highlighted with stunning photos, videos, and text statements geared for a curious.  Learn more about parasail inventions and innovations from the development of the parasail canopy, to the evolution of modern day equipment and what they symbolize today.   
The Parasail Safety Council (PSC) is an nonprofit online publication that was established in 1998 by Mark McCulloh providing the general public and government entities reliable information about parasailing including safety issues, risk awareness and standards with a focus on education, certification and regulation.  To date, over 48 million visitors have been educated by the Parasail Safety Council’s website with more than 3 - 5 million people each year enjoy the sport of parasailing many of them for the first time.   The Parasail Safety Council’s does not engage in commercial commerce of any kind nor does it accept donations or gifts. All of the online content is presented as a public service and is considered a credible source of information.  
Welcome to the  Parasail Safety Council Website
The worlds premiere source for parasail information
CONSUMER PARASAIL SAFETY ALERTS About Us    About Us    About Us HAVE A QUESTION? ASK THE EXPERT Modern Day Parasailing - The Brain Child Behind it all !   by David Carminito    Modern Day Parasailing - The Brain Child Behind it all !   by David Carminito
   The Rule 26/44 Proposal to modify Florida new Parasail Regulations
   The Rule 26/44 Proposal to modify Florida new Parasail Regulations
“One of our core values is ‘risk transparency’ , encouraging an open and honest dialogue about parasailing risks and effective risk management in an unbiased format based on historical data”    Mark McCulloh 
RULE 26/44 COMMERCIAL PARASAILING ACCIDENT ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION ON PROPOSED REGULATIONS OF RULE 26/44 BACKGROUND Commercial parasailing, the  carrying of  a paying passenger secured to a canopy which is dynamically tethered to a ‘winchboat’,  has been in existence since the I  begun taking up passengers in and around Miami, Florida in the early 1970’s together along with my numerous inventions and patents ( see ) Today, commercial parasailing has grown in Florida to over one hundred (120+) operations with some offering flights year around and others only during the peak tourist seasons.   Over the years, commercial parasailing has been plagues with  persistent serious accidents many of which have resulted in high publicity deaths.  These deaths not only pose a risk to the public, but have had a negative impact on the parasail industry’s brand, as well as, that of the global tourism brand the state of Florida.  While in the past, the financial risk was limited to the operator, as the deaths continued. Today, litigation has spread to include property owners and manufacturers.  It would not be unrealistic to anticipate that municipalities or other government entities would become parties to the actions if no action is taken.  The Department of Justice has also become involved filing criminal cases against Captains and company owners under the Seaman’s Manslaughter Act.  Whereas, Florida has never filed criminal charges involving parasail deaths. JURISDICTION The Federal Government controls the sport to a limited aspect through the Coast Guard and to  a lesser  extent the FAA.  Florida has traditionally relied upon the Department of Fish and Wildlife along with local policing authorities to control and investigate parasail accidents.  Needless to say jurisdiction over a hybrid vessel/air sport is somewhat confusing, which statewide regulations could clarify.  Both Houses of the Florida Congress have from time to time proposed regulating the sport following each death with no bills from either body having made it to either floor for a vote.  The Senate is now considering introducing regulation of parasailing once again. QUESTION? Can commercial parasailing be regulated by the State of Florida  in such a manner as to significantly reduce or eliminate serious injuries or deaths? ANALYSIS In order to answer this question in a way that is meaningful to reader the dynamics of parasailing, must be briefly explained as the sport is more complex than what most tourists and operators might believe or have been told.   Parasailing involves a modified parachute canopy design affecting stability, control, lift and payload theory including but not limited to the characteristics of a dynamically tethered object, the characteristics of an object in rough seas, wind, weather, equipment maintenance and performance, launch and retrieval systems, vessel operation and people both as crew and passenger.   As to people, specifically the reaction of people under highly stressful situations like an emergency waterlanding including drowning.  ( USCG Search & Rescue Report located at  ( )   For the purposes of this analysis, we have categorized accidents into two types:  a) accidents ‘with tow-line separation’ and b) accidents ‘without tow- line separation’.  Tow-line separation accidents cause more than 60% of the serious injuries and 98% of all deaths ( GENERAL   Tow-Line Separation:   It is important to note that ’tow- line separation’ has often been demonized as the ‘cause’ of many fatal accidents when in fact tow- line separation itself,  is not dangerous nor is the direct cause of injuries and in some case plays an important role in preventing serious vessel accidents by acting as the ‘ weak link’  thus prevent equipment damage and vessel capsizing injuring both  crew and passengers .  (See:  Lake George, New York accident where cable strength surpassed vessel capability and capsized 2009)   See also Vessel Stability Reports, US Coast Guard Stability Investigations and USCG Commandant Directive on parasail winchboat stability requirements for inspected vessels.  Click links below to download  reports. 1. 1990-02-28-McCulloh-Evaluation-Stability-Study-to-USCG-Commander  2. 1990-06-USCG-Vessel-Capsizing-Investigation-Recommendations  3. 1991-06-USCG-Commandant-Action-Letter While a combination of factors may be involved in  ‘tow line separation accidents’, there are certain key and reoccurring themes that warrant consideration which can be categorized into two types a) ‘tow- line separation  in high winds resulting in non-waterlandings’ and b) ‘tow- line separation in high winds resulting in waterlandings’. TOW-LINE SEPARATION ACCIDENTS Tow-Line Separation:  (High Wind, Non-Water Landings)  In order to eliminate accidents involving non water landings the parasail flight distance to shore and other fixed objects must be calculated and controlled. By doing this one can conclude by example that  flights at 600' feet ASL must remain 1800' from shore to avoid a shore landing.   Lower flight parameters would allow for closer to shore distances based on the glide slope ratio of the canopy in use.   These calculations and resulting distances are available and easily applied to an operation. . (See: Panama City Accident 2013 involving high altitude flight near shore)   Solution- Regulate distance to shore and other fixed objects Tow-Line Separation:  (High Wind + Water Landing)  Tow-line separation in high winds resulting in waterlandings has resulted in more than 98% of all of the serious injuries and deaths worldwide.  As expressed earlier there is no evidence to suggest that tow-line separation in and of itself is the cause of these  injuries.  In order to eliminate this type of accident we must analyze the risk factors which follow the separation  and attempt to significantly reduce each one of their impact. Tow-Line Separation  Risk Factors:   (High Wind + Water Landing) During a, ’tow- line separation in high winds resulting in a water landings’, the crew and passengers  face three risk factors.  1. The first is the characteristic of a parasail canopy to be able to re-inflate itself after its payload (passenger(s) have landed in the water.  2. The second is the parasailor’s inability to separate themselves from the canopy thus forcing them to be drug backwards by a re- inflated canopy in whatever path it takes. 3. The third is the glide slope ratio of the canopy as it relates to height and distance to shore or other rigid life threatening objects and the canopy’s ability to reach  them after the tow-line has separated. Rescue Plans Tow-Line Separation:  (High Wind + Water Landing + Rescue ) Implementing a successful rescue strategy is paramount  in any type of water landing.  Various rescue strategies have been deployed over the years with minimal success in parasail fatality prevention and fall short of having a significant impact. All of these plans are based on the use of a single or multi passenger harness support system:  1. Tow Vessel: Ensnare  Canopy:  Use: Wide Spread-The most prevalent rescue plan in use today is for the winchboat to overtake and run over the runaway canopy.  The distance to parasailor, ground speed of canopy and time to achieve results vs. drowning time assuming the canopy is at water level, greatly reduce the odds of this solution’s successful implementation. 2. Chase Boat: Ensnare Canopy:  Use- Rare -This plan  involves operating a second vessel and crew that follows the parasailors throughout the flight with the assumption that it will be better positioned to rescue the parasailor/canopy as needed.  While this plan seems viable carrying out this plan may be cost prohibitive and even dangerous in high parasail flight concentrations such as the Pensacola area.  The rationale behind this plan is the tacit admission that plan 1 ‘Run Over Canopy’ and Plan 3 ‘Gaff Pole’ may not be feasible in terms of the vessel’s requirement to overtake the canopy in a timely manner. Thus this plan casts doubt by its endorsers on those two other plans. 3. ‘Gaff’ Pole: Use-Very Few -This plan involves a long pole with a ‘shepherds hook’ on the end. The concept is to chase down and snare the runaway canopy using this device thus in theory preventing it from remaining inflated.  The challenges found in the previous plan apply along with false assumption that a single person can snare and deflate a canopy with high lift capability failed in a real life rescue attempt resulting in the death of  a parasailor. 4. ‘Drogue Style’ Devices: Use- Few -This plan involves a  manually activated ‘drogue device’ deployed by the parasailor and/or crew which acts like a sea anchor attached to the canopy, which when filled with water causes the canopy to sink back into the water.   When deployed by the parasailor, it requires the parasailor to locate and pull on the loop handle.  In the case of the crew, it requires the tow vessel to chase down the canopy so the crew can engage the loop handle with a gaff pole.   All of the challenges given require extensive training and execution by the passengers and crew to carry out this task under extremely stressful and life threatening situations.  It also has the danger of pre-emergency deployment in adverse conditions which failed reliability testing in the mid 80’s and 90’s. Which Risk Has The Greatest Impact On The Reduction of Fatalities? Based on existing rescue plans involving specifically the “harness support systems” are for the most part ineffective as none of them prevent or mitigate the three risk factors explained in Tow-Line Separation  Risk Factors  above i.e.  a) canopy re-inflation,  b) harness escape and;  c) glide/ slope ratio prior to the accident.  While all three risks play a significant role in parasailing deaths, one stands out above the rest. The parasailor’s inability to escape or free themselves from the canopy is the root cause of serious injuries and fatalities to date.  In fact, it is this ‘inability to escape’ which both propagated the many different rescue plans and which has stymied them as well. Why? 1. There is a prevalent use in the US of a body harness passenger support system which is designed to keep the wearer from falling out of or inadvertently escaping the harness.  This includes during and after an emergency waterlanding  2. The original full body harness design which connected the passenger to the canopy at the top of the shoulder was modified in the 1980’s  and is now referred to as the half body harness and connects the parasailor at the hip. This change of convenience tends to flip the wearer upside down when being dragged backwards through the water.     3. A drowning person especially one being drug through the water is not rational or capable of carrying out any type of instructions or commands. This is supported by numerous studies including one in particular published by the Journal of U. S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue magazine  entitled  "It Doesn’t Look Like They’re Drowning” ( View Article ) So therein lies the dilemma. A harness which is the parasailor’s friend in the sky can become their enemy in the water. (Watch Video) NON-TOW LINE SEPARATION ACCIDENTS Non Tow-Line Separation Accidents while less frequent, have been connected to deaths and serious injuries as well.  (See accident in Pompano Beach , Bahamas and Long Boat Key, Ft. Myers)  where passenger support system failure was the root cause.   These accidents are principally based on mechanical/material failure and negligence.   They also involve poor rescue techniques involving a stationary floating passenger.   Based on a review of all significant accidents going back three decades, the non tow-line separation accidents are best eliminated through proper equipment configuration, specific use, and routine maintenance and replacement, including the Winchboat vessel system.  HOW DO WE SOLVE THIS DILEMMA?   It is my professional opinion, based on years of empirical accident data and experience, that we will only achieve the goal of preventing both serious parasail accidents and fatalities by restricting the canopy size based on the type of passenger support system in use.   In fact, if regulators were to implement limitations on canopy size based on equipment types as outlined below, new regulations dealing with parasail accidents and fatality prevention resulting from tow line separations and emergency waterlandings in dangerous wind conditions would be unnecessary.  THIS REGULATION MAY BE SUMMED UP IN TWO WORDS: [RULE 26/44] The strength of Rule 26/44, is derived from its simplicity and effectiveness.  Parasail captains ONLY NEED TO BE REGULATED AS TO THEIR MAXIMUM CANOPY SIZE BASED ON THE PARASAIL PASSENGER SUPPORT SYSTEM THEY ARE USING.   Rule 26/44 would be easy to regulate and inexpensive to adopt and enforce.  It requires no experience, no specialized training or reliance on any other type of equipment that creates additional duties, burdens and liability to the operator and parasailor.   Simply stated, Rule 26/44 eliminates these problematic areas.   SUMMARY OF THE RULE 26/44 PROPOSAL  To prevent future parasail fatalities, the RULE 26/44 provision that places restrictions on Passenger Support Systems and Canopy size should be included with any new commercial parasailing regulations.   1. Passenger Support System:  Under rule  26/44,  all parasail vessels must be equipped with a passenger support system that includes a “harness style” and/or  "gondola style" systems or both. 2. Canopy Diameter Restrictions:  Under rule  26/44,  the maximum diameter of Parasail canopies used for commercial parasailing must be not exceed 26’ feet for the harness style passenger support system and 44’ feet for the Gondola passenger support system. THE SCIENCE BEHIND RULE 26/44 A combination of wind speed, payload and canopy size have a direct correlation as to the probability of a parasailor drowning as the result of emergency waterlandings in high winds after a tow line separation.  The totality and complexity of this scenario makes regulating these variables, extremely difficult, if not impossible to draft, operators to comply with and their enforcement.   Placing restrictions on canopy size is the key to waterlanding survival especially for 'harness' flights because parasailor(s) are irrevocably attached to the harness/canopy system.  We know that the flight characteristics of a 26’ foot canopy in that it will not fully re-inflate before self-deflating given any pay load above 90lbs in wind speeds up to 30 knots.  As such, the likelihood of a 'harness' drowning as the result of a 26' runaway canopy is less than 0.01%.  Unlike the harness, the gondola style support system, which surrounds parasailor(s) in a protective frame without physical restraints, allows for easy evacuation from a reclined position in the event of a waterlanding even in winds speeds exceeding 30 knots, thus the larger allowable canopy size of up to 44' feet without endangering the parasailors.  CONCLUSION The sport as presently practiced commercially.  We can conclude from statistics, accident reconstruction and imperial data that preventing injury or death to a parasailor in the Tow-Line Separation:  (High Wind + Water Landing)  accident category, would have a significant impact on the reduction of this risk!  Theoretically we have found that solving these factors and preventing serious injuries and deaths may be simpler than we have been lead to believe.  The real question is no longer whether there can be effective regulations. The real question is who has the wisdom to implement them.  NOTES TO THE RULE: This rule did not consider any devices including those that are labeled and/or marketed as parasail safety products that have not been tested and validated by a certified engineering firm and which have not meet the minimum requirements for product liability insurance underwriting  The report was prepared and submitted on 08/09/2013 by: Mark McCulloh Parasail Safety Expert / Consultant The Clayton & McCulloh Building 1065 Maitland Center Commons Blvd. Maitland, FL 32751 For more resources regarding parasail accidents and statistics, please visit 
SAFETY RULE  26/44  SAFETY RULE  26/44      Download Complete Copy !
   Commentary on Parasail Regulations
NTSB Parasailing Report is a wake-up-call ! By MARK McCULLOH - Posted 7/2/2014 I applaud the NTSB’s scathing report tackling parasail industry shortcomings and should serve as a "wake-up call" to industry stakeholders that strict regulations are forthcoming and the importance of working with various regulatory agencies to stabilize this popular aerial adventure which generates hundreds of millions annually.  The report and its conclusions were long overdue, and supports a long standing presumption that by regulating the industry with all of its complexities and personalities will prevent future injuries and fatalities.  While this may be true in a few accident scenarios as briefly outlined in the report.  Regulations in and of themselves would not have prevented fatalities caused by, or resulting from, water-landings in high winds with a runaway parasail that has drown many participants from their inability to release themselves from the harness which is in use nationwide.   In this scenario, no amount of regulations, training, equipment inspection or specialty gadgets being considered would have altered this outcome which represents the vast majority of parasail fatalities worldwide.  In summary, changing this grim reality, can only be realized by modifying or replacing the body harness itself.   However, focusing only on the grim realities of parasailing misses the promising hope that both regulatory agencies and stakeholders have reached a consensus to move forward with some form of regulations on a national level. My only descent, is if the imperial data on the harness defects and other issues outlined in my 5/07/2014 post below are not fully addressed an implemented into future regulations.  Parasail fatalities will continue, insurance rates will skyrocket only to the industries demise. Respectfully submitted, Mark McCulloh click link to view report ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ NTSB says parasailing is risky, urges regulation By BETH J. HARPAZ — Associated Press -  1, 2014 5:36 PM EDT - Beth Harpaz on Twitter: @AP_Travel  Click link to read story:  ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Bill To Regulate Parasailing Signed Into Law By Governor Scott By MARK McCULLOH - Posted 6/24/2014 The new legislation signed into law today by Governor Scott requires commercial parasailing operators to stop their activities when weather conditions make parasailing unsafe.  Owners of commercial parasailing businesses must keep a weather log and have equipment on their vessels to receive weather updates. The bill also requires commercial operators maintain liability insurance with a minimum of $1 million in personal injury coverage. It would be a fair assumption that most industry stakeholders agree with the new law, but understand that safety issues still exist.  The good news is that Florida’s new parasail bill will discourage operator complacency and encourage them to follow standards to ensure operational continuity in the State of Florida.   While these regulations are a good first start, there is much more that both operators and regulatory agencies can do to promote parasail safety.      Respectfully submitted, Mark McCulloh ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The Florida Legislature finally passes parasailing regulations The Florida Senate on Thursday May 1, 2014 voted unanimously to regulate parasailing under bill SB 320.  By MARK McCULLOH - Posted 5/07/2014 After 5 attempts and 4 years, the State of Florida finally passes a Parasailing Bill to start the process of governing one of the largest population of commercial parasail operators in the country.   Having been an advocate and consultant for regulations since the mid 80’s publishing the world first Operating Standards and Guidelines for Parasailing (1985) in anticipation of a growing demand for parasailing       I fully support SB 320 as presented by Senator Maria Sachs, and commend her steadfast determination in taking this bill across the finish line.  The Parasail Bill SB 320 is a good first step in the right and should open the door to implement more sweeping reforms that will prevent fatalities.  More specifically, the proposed amendments would; 1. Place limitations on parasail canopy size based on passenger support types; ie: body harness and/or Gondola  (Rule 44 report) 2. Expand penalty provision against a Captain who is found be willfully negligent in a parasail fatality  3. Mandate that all parasail vessels be equipped with weather radar that delivers up-to-the-minute forecasts, storm alerts with visual. 4. Encourage Parasail equipment manufacturers in Florida to carry products liability insurance.    5. Institute mandatory replacement time/date stamps on all parasail canopies, passenger support systems and towline based on both number of flights or storage whichever comes first. These suggestions are supported by some operators who want to stabilize the industry, and may be challenged by others which are heavily invested in reducing operating cost and maintaining the status quo.   Unfortunately, without adding meaningful reforms like the ones mention above, parasail fatalities will continue and insurance cost (which have almost tripled in the last few years) will continue to skyrocket making it unaffordable and out of reach for the majority.     Respectfully submitted, Mark McCulloh                 
   Commentary on Parasail Regulations