INSIDE EDITION Investigates Parasailing
Parasailing is supposed to be a fun, vacation activity, where a giant parachute lifts you hundreds of feet in the air, as you take in beautiful views. But, INSIDE EDITION found this largely unregulated pastime can be dangerous.
Seven-year old, Eddie Haith was blown right into a building by a gust of wind while parasailing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
"Not only did he hit himself once on the side of the building,” said Brian Haith, Eddie’s father. "He came around to the back of the building and hit again. And, then he started just dangling there!"
Eddie’s parents, Brian and Debbie, feared the worst.
"I thought he died," Brian said.
Miraculously, little Eddie survived with just a broken leg, nose and two ribs.
He still can't watch the moment on the family’s home video where he nearly lost his life.
INSIDE EDITION went to Cancun, Mexico, where three million Americans travel every year.
We hired Mark McCulloh, a parasailing expert who invented much of the equipment being used around the world.
McCulloh showed INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero some parasailing operators he said were unsafe, such as boats flying vacationers too close to shore.
"Is it safe for that boat to be flying so close to shore?" Guerrero asked McCulloh.
"If that [rope] line separates, those people can go slamming into that building," McCulloh said.
We also saw parasailors flying twice the height of a 20-story apartment building.
While in Cancun, Guerrero and an INSIDE EDITION cameraman went up in a two person gondola parasail to get a sense of just how high a person should fly.
"We're six hundred feet above the water right now, which is the highest distance you can parasail safely, because you can still communicate with the people in the boat below," Guerrero demonstrated from the parasail gondola. "However, a lot of the operations around here are sailing twice as high as we are, and that's where things can become really dangerous."
Guerrero paid one operator $50 to parasail along Cancun’s ritziest beach.
He assured Guerrero she would be safe.
"It's safe. Relax," the operator said.
But, Guerrero was went soaring more than 1000 feet in the air.
From the shore, she looked like just a tiny dot in the sky.
And, that’s not all.
The parasailing boat sent Guerrero sailing near dark and dangerous storm clouds.
But, the operator insisted everything was safe.
"When you fly, you fly safe," He told Guerrero.
McCulloh wasn’t convinced.
"If that line had separated, the fact that you were up so high, the fact that there was a storm right behind you, the wind had picked up and you had gone in the water, you would have been dead," he said.
During our next parasailing experience, the boat operators didn’t provide much instruction.
"Are you going to give me directions or tell me what to do?" Guerrero asked.
"Just relax and enjoy your flight," the operator said, before sending her flying hundreds of feet in the air.
Even more unsafe, Guerrero was given a harness that was way too big, and didn’t fit properly.
The leg straps, that were supposed to fit around her thighs, were hanging below her knees.
"I could definitely flip right forward," Guerrero explained. "There’s nothing holding me into this harness."
And, once again, she was flown right in front of dark, ominous storm clouds.
"Wow, here comes the wind from the storm," Guerrero commented while parasailing.
But, the most dangerous part of the ride occurred while Guerrero was being brought back into the boat from hundreds of feet in the air.
McCulloh believes, after analyzing INSIDE EDITION’s undercover video, that strands of the thick parasailing rope snapped and actually came apart.
"I could see it. I could hear it," McCulloh said. "They should have stopped the ride right then and there, taken that rope and changed it."
"Of all the things I’ve seen in my 40-year career, [that] was probably the most frightening."
INSIDE EDITION went back to the parasailing operator to talk to him about our concerns.
"Are you guys running a safe operation here?" Guerrero asked.
"Yes, very safe," the operator said.
Guerrero asked him about the harness was way too big: "Do you think the harness you put on me, fit me?"
The operator pointed to the extra large harness, and said "that’s your size."
"I hope not,"Guerrero said.
We asked about the rope strands that McCulloh believes snapped and came apart during our ride. The operator said, "I haven’t seen that."
So, while parasailing can be great fun on vacation, remember what happened to little Eddie.
"I want people to hear our story and think twice before going up in the air," urged Eddie’s mother, Debbie Haith.