By Gwendolyn Craig
Parasailing operations will be a little bit different and hopefully safer this summer on Lake George, if and when they open after pandemic restrictions.
The Lake George Park Commission passed new permit conditions at its monthly meeting Tuesday following a near-drowning during a parasailing ride last summer. The new rules fix minimum crew numbers and maximum wind speeds.
Last June a 23-year-old man from New Windsor fell into Lake George and became entangled in the rigging of a Pinky’s Parasailing Adventures boat. By the time the man was pulled from the water he was unconscious and not breathing. He was in critical condition for a time, but recovered.
In July, the Park Commission listened to a number of public comments about the safety of parasailing operations, in which a boat tows customers held aloft by a parachute-like kite. The public also discussed kayaking safety, and in October the Park Commission passed a resolution requiring flags on all commercial canoes and kayaks.
The Park Commission formed a subcommittee to work with Pinky’s Parasailing Adventures and Parasail Joe’s on updating their permits to include new safety measures. Those changes were announced and unanimously passed on Tuesday.
Park Commission Executive Director David Wick discussed some of the more prominent changes, including that parasailing boats must have at least three crew members on board unless all guests are harnessed prior to getting in the boat. Then, there could be two. Originally, permits only required two crew members.
“What was actually happening was when the parasail was actually in the air, the crew member was attending to the passengers,” Wick said.
The captain was both operating the boat and supervising the parasailers, which Wick said was “problematic in terms of having a dedicated observer.”
The Park Commission also clarified wind speed information for when it’s safe to fly. The Park Commission’s law enforcement director, Lt. Joe Johns, said originally the permit rules did not take into account wind gusts.
Now, parasailers cannot operate “when the actual or forecasted wind speed (aka sustained wind) within the next hour is 16 mph or greater as recorded or forecasted,” and they cannot operate “when the actual or forecasted wind gust speed within the next hour is greater than 20 mph,” according to the permit updates. The wind information is obtained from the National Weather Service station at the Warren County Airport in Queensbury.
The permits should “all but guarantee” operations occur at or below 20 mph, Wick said.
Both parasailing operators were on board with the changes, he said.
Some additional updates to the permit include:
- Any incidents must be reported to the Park Commission within 24 hours.
- All parasail boats must have a radio to communicate with their shoreside reservation desks and actively monitor the weather forecast.
- All captains and crew members will take a blood-alcohol concentration test prior to work each day. Anyone testing higher than zero cannot work.