Parasailing crash victim seeks regulation law

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It’s been more than eight months since a horrifying parasailing accident nearly took her life.  Now, Alexis Fairchild is turning that experience into something that could save the life of others. The Huntington teen is working on passing a bill in Florida to help prevent future parasailing accidents.

“It’s just like driving a car. If there’s not laws put in place, someone is going to get hurt. So, I don’t see why you’re going to put someone very high up in the air and not have rules,” said Fairchild.

While Alexis’ story gained national attention, there are many others like hers. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there have been eleven deaths and more than fifty injuries from parasailing since 2006. Parasailing is the only water sport not regulated in the state of Florida. There have been previous attempts to regulate it, but nothing has passed. State Senator Maria Sachs of Florida is the bill’s author. She has worked on previous attempts to pass the bill, but said there was not much support from the industry. After the accident, that started to change. Last fall, Senator Sachs organized a meeting with all of the major parasailing operators in Florida.

“We were able to speak directly to them and let them know it’s a wonderful sport, very much a Florida sport. However, they have to regulate.  They have to have mandatory insurance requirements. To do without that, we will probably drive them out of business in the state because we could no longer afford to have operators continue to do this business and attract tourists and attract people to Florida without these necessary minimum requirements,” said Senator Sachs.So far, many parasailing companies and lawmakers have given the bill unanimous support, and it’s on its way to becoming a law. Alexis Fairchild testified in front of a senate committee in Florida last month. That’s something Senator Sachs said is causing the bill to gain significant momentum.

“It’s one thing if legislators promote this idea, but when you get a brave young woman like Alexis Fairchild speaking up so that everybody knows we need regulations, I think that goes very, very far, and I cannot applaud her courage and her efforts enough,” said Senator Sachs.

Fairchild said she initially got involved with the bill after her lawyers encouraged her to use her experience to benefit others and prevent future accidents.

“I wanted to post pictures and I wanted to be able to get back to life because I was kind of hidden for a while. I wanted to be able to post them, and I really didn’t want to go on any TV or media or anything like that, it just wasn’t me. Then, my lawyer said, “you know, hey, you could actually benefit from just coming out and helping other people, and you can get your picture across. I was really tired of being that “blob.” I wanted to be a face,” said Fairchild.

Fairchild has made great progress since last year’s accident, but she said part of her healing process is getting this bill passed.

Click here to read more on Alexis’ road to recovery.

“It was hard, but it needed done. It was one of those things that was so scary, but I was like, it needs to happen, because otherwise, somebody is going to be standing right here in my position telling their story or someone else’s story. That’s hard to think about because I don’t want to see someone else go through what I did,” said Fairchild.

Fairchild said working on the bill has helped her come to terms with the accident and believes it happened so she could help others.

“My senior year was flipped, my life was flipped, just a lot of things changed. I’m okay with it more now than I was a couple months ago just because I know that it won’t happen again, hopefully, if this passes. I feel like coming out and saying this needs done and we need to do this in order to help and not let this happen again helped me a lot. Just be okay that this happened to me and understand that this happened for a reason and that reason is that no one else is going to be standing here,” said Fairchild.

While the bill is widely supported, Senator Sachs said there are still some critics who worry about the government taking over the industry.

“Some of the people who are not supportive of it will argue that we don’t need anymore government regulation and that industry can self-regulate itself without government stepping in. My answer to that is the job of government is not to over-regulate, but the job of government is to make sure our attractions are safe,” said Senator Sachs.

The bill has made it through three committees and is heading for a final vote. Senator Sachs said she expects the bill to pass sometime in April. If it does pass, it will go into effect in July of 2015.  While the law is potentially still more than a year away from directly impacting parasailing companies, Senator Sachs said they are already preparing and making adjustments.

“I have a feeling that most, if not all, of the parasail operators are already getting ready. They’re already getting their insurance policies. They want to stay in business and they want to stay reputable,” said Senator Sachs.

Anyone interested in supporting the bill can sign an online petition. Click this link.

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