Update: Just heard that the Penang state government and MPPP have now issued a stop order to all watersports operators in Batu Ferringhi starting tomorrow. All activities are banned.
A woman from Saudi Arabia fell to her death while parasailing as she prepared to land at Batu Ferringhi late yesterday evening – and this is set to raise questions about how parasailing is regulated in the country.
The tourist (Aldakhilallah Eman Mohamed, 35) is believed to have been parasailing under one of the many watersports operators along the beach when the tragedy occurred.
A spokesman at a beach hotel confirmed an incident had occurred outside his hotel’s property and police are investigating. A corporal on duty at the Batu Ferringhi Police Station said that a person had died on the way to hospital following a watersports accident.
A Batu Ferringhi resident, who tipped me off about the tragedy, later spoke to a tramautised beach-boy who had witnessed the incident. The beach-boy saw the woman apparently slipping out of the harness and plunging into the water when approaching the landing point as her family members watched.
When contacted, Penang Watercraft Operators Association chairman Louis Lim said the operator involved was a member of the association and covered by insurance.
The MPPP requires jet-ski operators to have licences, but these apparently do not cover parasailing. The Association had previously brought up the issue of parasailing with the relevant authorities, said Lim.
There have been a series of parasailing accidents or near misses over the years.
Check out a visiting blogger’s nasty parasailing accident in Penang earlier this year which left a serious gash on her foot.
After an amazing Malaysian lunch, and coconut beverages, we walked down and bargained with the parasailing guys. We decided on a price, and the second he started putting the gear on us, I felt very uneasy. Not nervous, but just a feeling in my stomach that something wasn’t right. To this day, I kick myself for not going with my gut instinct, which is almost always right.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, FOLLOW YOUR INTUITION!!!
So dude puts on this super janky gear on us, and we take off from the beach, which is also unusual. We start running, and we are flying so nicely in the air, as I’m trying to keep my eye on the guy that’s on shore to give me the signal, so I can grab the rope, and we will land back on the beach. I notice that the boat driver has a flying really low, which not only ruins the experience, but I can’t help but thinking about being dunked into shark infested waters.
We’re riding tandem, and I’m in the back. I look over my friend’s shoulder and see a tug boat approaching us in the distance. We stay at the same speed, and it’s coming closer. I’m wondering if this ******* is going to speed up, so we can actually get a view, and not dive into the water, but we keep flying at about 30-40mph, straight towards this boat.
I remember thinking to myself.. “No way..this isn’t going to happen..this guy knows what he’s doing.” and my friend is completly silent, which is very unusual. It must have been even scarier being in front seeing this happen. It keeps coming faster and faster, and we are maintaining the same speed, and all I remember is screaming, “WHAT THE ****!”
We smack against the side of the boat so damn hard that I still can’t believe what is going on, and that I’m still conscious. We get dragged around to the front of the boat, and lay there, tangled in the ropes and the parachute. Now, if there is a perfect way to slam into the side of a boat while flying through the air, we certainly did so. If we would have been a little higher, we would have only hit our lower half of our bodies, and went tumbling over the top of the boat, falling down onto the other side. A little bit lower, we would have hit, and fallen into the water. The water was not clean, and both of us had open wounds, which probably would have attracted sharks, and they would have eaten us alive. Okay, maybe not, but ya never know.
I remained incredibly calm, and remember telling my friend not to move, as I could hear the guys coming out on jet skies to get us. I moved my body a little bit and was pretty certain that I was fine, and hadn’t broken anything. Until I saw blood. Lots of blood. SO much blood that I instantly got naseous. I didn’t know where it was coming from until I lifted my left foot, and saw my heel hanging off of my foot.
In January 2011, Aliran had carried an article, “Say No to unregulated parasailing”.
Writer Andrew Loh had said then:
Parasailing in Penang represents a clear and present danger. It is very possible that children and adults will die because of parasailing.
This is because:-
- Penang’s beaches are too narrow and short for parasailing.
- When the tide is up, the beach is halved, thus making safe landing very difficult.
- The unpredictable wind makes parasailing even more dangerous. Many parasailors are first timers and can panic when they find it difficult to steer the parasail.
- The motorboats encroach too closely to bathers.
- The outboard motors spew fuel/oil mixture and other toxic pollutants which can cause serious skin allergy to bathers. On a daily basis.
The authorities concerned can’t say they have not been warned or alerted to the danger. In 2011, the MPPP imposed a temporary ban on parasailing and water-scooters in the wake of a string of accidents.
Blog visitor Batu Ferringhian adds:
The existing regulations are not enough and the MPPP has no jurisdiction over boating activities. Only jet-skis.
Parasailing is an unlicensed activity and by law, is illegal… unless you can prove that you as an operator or a boat driver possess a valid boat driving licence with which you are legally allowed to drive speedboats/recreational boats.
This is about training and setting up international safety standards.
A good start would be checking out the Watersports Industry Association, based in the USA.
Fact is, this is not the first fatal water sports related accident in Penang. As I recall, there was a fatal jet ski accident that happened in Monkey Beach back in 2006.
The question here is, how many more deaths do we need till the state government and local authorities muster enough political will to improve this industry?