Tragic parasailing death in Batu Ferringhi

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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 ****!”

THEN BAAMMM!

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?

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Batu Ferringhian

You need to understand that there is a detrimental commission based price structure that exists and influences how the water sports industry is conducted locally. the last thing you should do is blame the victim. there are not to be blamed. as someone providing these activities (operators/employees) you should understan the science of these activities more than anyone else. my point is, water sports activities should only be conducted by skilled and qualified people. this lady, as anyone else…is not to be blamed! as a parasailing instructor, there are many factors to consider -weight of the participant -wind factor -sea… Read more »

Rasputin

Touching on two points:

1. What is the minimum quantum of insurance
policy coverage required by law to operate watersports business?

2. It is irrelevant to blame the fatal accident to the physical attributes of the
victim. The fact of the matter is, from what I know, parasailing is ILLEGAL
and yet why this watersport activity is allowed to persist without restraint by
our authorities? Can the MPPP and the Sports EXCO enlighten us, please?

Someone who happened to be there.

Just so you know, this lady insisted on going on the parachute despite having been discouraged by the Watersports Operators because of her weight. She (allegedly) paid double the price to go and ended up paying with her life too. People like her should be more cautious too. I’m pretty sure even licensed Watersports Operators would have told her the same thing, and she’d still insist. Though part of the blame is on the Watersports Operators, this lady carries part of the blame too. She should have been more rational.

Island Joe

Oh and an after note regarding the Chairman of the Penang Watercraft Operators Association. Who cares if the operator is insured! He obviously doesn’t care about the victim. This also put into perspective his comment about “bringing up the issue with the relevant authorities”. Over a teh tarik or in a formal environment? If not formalised, it doesn’t mean anything. Heard about industry self regulation? Has he brought it up with his members? Did he raise the safety concerns to his members asking for an SOP to be established for safety? Just passing the buck. Come to think of it,… Read more »

Island Joe

Fair enough. A fairly insensitive comment otherwise. Would still be interesting to know what kind of criterion needs to be met to obtain this jet ski license. Also, if parasailing is technically not licensed, would a parasailing accident warrant a payout?

Island Joe

This has been a long time coming. Batu Ferringhi beach is really unpleasant. The whole thing wreaks of mismanagement. Dirty and grotty in some places with a whole host of unsavoury characters “running” beach activities. Its really like visiting the bargain basement. And this is our showcase destination. To fix it and provide a quality experience, the government needs to do the following: 1) ONLY allow reputable companies to run watersport activities and apply for licenses. 2) Only those with sufficient paid up capital for a start to show they are serious. Then regulate a finite number licenses so its… Read more »

Wee Chin

Anil Positive emotions have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being in numerous scientific studies. On the other hand, chronic anger, worry, and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease, as people react to these feelings with raised blood pressure and stiffening of blood vessels. But it isn’t easy to maintain a healthy, positive emotional state. People often misjudge what will make them happy and content. Tal Ben-Shahar is an author and lecturer at Harvard University. He currently teaches the largest course at Harvard on “Positive Psychology” and the third largest on “The Psychology of Leadership”–with… Read more »

Dharma

There is no safety culture in Malaysia – both among the boat operators and the tourism authorities – accidents like these are just waiting to happen!

Rasputin

Almost all the watersport operators in Batu Feringgi are illegal operators. With some money they buy one or two jetskis and a few other uquiptment and start operating their business along the beach. Its so easy to “cari makan”, just like the unregulated pasar malam traders and the illegal roadside hawkers. Notwithstanding numerous minor and serious mishaps, the fatal tragedy in Batu Feringgi is not an isolated case. It happened in the past, and I’m sure, it will happen agaiin UNLESS the Local Authorities, including the State Govt., wake up from their stupor and slumber and do the right thing… Read more »

Andrew

Pity the accident did not happen to some big shot BN or PR politician. Maybe then they will regulate the industry. Otherwise, forget it. Our great BN and PR politicians don’t give a damn. All they think about is how to make money for themselves or their political parties.

Batu Ferringhian

over development has nothing to do with water sports related accidents. come on, laah the existing regulations are not enough and the mppp has no jurisdiction over boating activities. only jetskis parasailing is an unlicensed activity and by law, is illegal…unless you can prove that you as an operator or a boat driver posses a valid boat driving license where 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 (www.wsia.net) fact is, this is not the… Read more »

Yang

Before I open this topic I knew there would be some idiot who would start blaming the state govt. If for every accident the blame is on development that we might as well has no development at all. Yes go back to the stone age and see whether you will have accident or not.

Gopala Eli Rai Ananda Kimivelo Anendi Nathan Kumar

Bad omen for penangites. This is the price to pay under the name of OVER DEVELOPMENT

In very bad taste to use a tragedy as a governing benchmark. But what do you expect from a troll trying to justify his paycheck?

OWC

This parasailing at Batu Feringghi has been around since the days when Penang was not really developed. I think there should be safety audits on such activities. The equipment used could be dated and cannot take extra weight of the heavy-sized victim.