Lowcountry Photos of 2013 (copy)

A person parasailing and a flock of birds share the airspace over the Cooper River in 2013. File/Staff

After a customer lost his legs below the knees and a second customer fractured a hip, a Myrtle Beach parasailing company was ordered to stop operating until it could produce proof that both crews and passengers are getting safety training.

The U.S. Coast Guard also ordered the company's boat captains to prove they hold valid licenses, and the company prove its employees passed required employment drug tests.

The order was later rescinded after the company provided the information. The investigation of the incidents is ongoing, said Coast Guard Lt. J.B. Zorn said. He could not comment on investigations under way, he said.

The company is operating normally, said owner David Sage. "We continue to cooperate with the investigation," he said.

The Captain of the Port Order was issued July 13. The injury that led to amputation occurred on June 19, and the hip fracture on July 6. The order also noted that subsequent to the July injury, "an individual deemed to be directly involved with the incident attempted to adulterate his required post-casualty chemical test specimen."

A violation could have resulted in a fine of as much as $250,000 and six years in prison; a willful violation could result in a fine of as much as $500,000, according to Coast Guard Captain J.W. Reed.

"As a result of the serious nature of these marine casualties and factors identified through our ongoing investigation, I have determined a significant risk to public safety has been identified," Reed said in the order.

The orders came after injuries that occurred as passengers tried to move from the parasailing boat to a "banana boat" raft to be transferred back to shore.

Following the June incident, the newspaper reported on how the parasailing industry remains largely unregulated in South Carolina as other states step up regulations in the wake of several high-profile accidents that were caught on video.

Members of the industry argue that their businesses do face some safeguards because they are frequently inspected by insurers. Businesses say they essentially self-regulate in order to avoid some of the most shocking accidents, where customers who are aloft float away, sometimes colliding with buildings or crash-landing.

But the process of transferring a customer from one craft to another in open water is now being examined by the main parasailing industry group. That transfer is necessary in locations like the Grand Strand, where a long stretch of popular beach means boats can't pick up customers on the shore. 

In the June incident, an Illinois man being moved to the banana boat to return to shore ended up back in the water, where his legs were caught in the propellers of the boat that had pulled the parasail, said Sgt. Philip Cain of the city's Beach Patrol.

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Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 1-843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.

Chloe Johnson covers the coastal environment and climate change for the Post and Courier. She's always looking for a good excuse to hop on a boat.

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