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Old 08-10-2015, 10:41 AM
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RickI RickI is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Default Parasailing Accident In Malta In Predicted Storm

Anthony Nisbet, 20, and his 17-year-old sister Grace had reportedly just been launched into the air over the northern Mellieha Bay, Ghadira when winds boosted related to an incoming storm. Parasailing boats can usually make good to windward approaching perhaps 18 kts. or so and then start to be dragged downwind. This boat was apparently dragged downwind into shallows. It looks like the stern is being pulled up out of the water by the parachute at points. The wind load on the parachute is simply too strong to for the boat to pull against, for the winch to pull the passengers down, they are simply stuck up there. In this case the tow cable broke sending the pair flying off downwind to impact into a area of bushes. They were very fortunate to come out of the experience with minor cuts and bruises.

The boat is being pulled aground with the parasailors aloft.

Unlike kiteboarding gear which is configured to help to manage the lifting power of the kite, current parasailing gear has no provision for dealing with too much wind. If the wind goes too high, the boat is pulled downwind, even at full engine power until and if it strikes bottom or the beach. The parachute may then lift the stern of the boat, start to do powered loops related to "lockout"with the passengers stuck aloft with no other recourse. Eventually something may break as happened in this case. Many other parasailers have been killed worldwide in such conditions, this pair was extremely lucky to come out of this horrific event with scrapes and bruises. I understand sometimes it is possible to run off the wind at high speed to allow the parachute to descend but this is a tricky maneuver putting the passengers at risk. The best course is to never have them up there in the first place in storm conditions.

Florida now has a law requiring parasail operations to carefully monitor and suspend operations before storm conditions strike.

"(4) A vessel engaged in commercial parasailing must be equipped with a functional VHF marine transceiver and a separate electronic device capable of providing access to National Weather Service forecasts and current weather conditions.
(5)(a) Commercial parasailing is prohibited if the current observed wind conditions in the area of operation include a sustained wind speed of more than 20 miles per hour; if wind gusts are 15 miles per hour higher than the sustained wind speed; if the wind speed during gusts exceeds 25 miles per hour; if rain or heavy fog results in reduced visibility of less than 0.5 mile; or if a known lightning storm comes within 7 miles of the parasailing area.
(b) The operator of the vessel engaged in commercial parasailing shall use all available means to determine prevailing and forecasted weather conditions and record this information in a weather log each time passengers are to be taken out on the water. The weather log must be available for inspection at all times at the operator’s place of business.."

327.375 Commercial parasailing.

The FAA has prepared a summary of regulations with weather and operational considerations for parasailers nationwide in the USA summarized below and detailed at

An account in the Daily Mail:

Another news account with some different photo perspectives. This photos looks like it was taken shortly after launch of the parasailer.

The pair are interviewed by Malta media:

Here is a video clip of a thunderstorm moving into Malta on the same day. I don't know if it is the same storm event or not which impacted the parasailers.

These accidents have been going on for a long time. I recall in 2002 when Pato was lofted 800 ft. inland to strike a pine tree he steered into in a 52 kt. squall gust in Cabarete there were two sisters parasailing about 9 miles down the coast. They were hit by the same squall resulting in the death of one of the sisters.

The term "freak storm" often appears in association with kiteboarding accidents and in the case of this parasailing accident as well. I have never been to Malta but it looks like powerful storms occur there with some frequency. There is even a Facebook page devoted to talking about them. This thunderstorm may have been associated with the squall line of one of the first stronger cold fronts of the season. It seems to have been anticipated by some particularly given its appearance on radar and satellite imagery. Plus the black threatening clouds were clearly visible in advance of the storm. Similar parasailing accidents have happened around the world, often with similar causes. Operators need to pay attention to the weather and act in advance of deteriorating conditions. Some will, many won't however, parasailing patrons have a care.

"Storms in Malta"

We had a very similar bad accident in SE Florida in 2007 resulting in the death of a young girl in horrific conditions, with the boat pulled on the beach, the parachute flying powered loops in "lockout," slamming the girls into the roof of a building.

Where regulations don't exist, common sense, concern for the passenger's welfare and good seamanship "should" prevail.

FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi

Last edited by RickI; 08-10-2015 at 11:58 AM.
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