Andre Loh warns of the dangers of unregulated parasailing for beach-goers in Penang after a near miss that could have seriously injured four children in his care.
When I was holidaying at Flamingo Hotel on 11 June 2010, about 150 of us beach-goers were subjected to the same danger as that which befell a seven-year-old Japanese girl on that fateful Christmas eve. Her story was reported in The Star on 31 December 2010.
This is my story. At around 5.00pm, there were about 80 children among 150 of us beach-goers, including my nine-year-old son Jean-Paul and four little girls, sisters Ho Min, 13, Xuan, 8, Yin, 5, and their cousin Fang Xing, 9, ho were under my charge that day.
From a distance I could see a para-sailor and her attendant motorboat proceeding towards the beach. Sensing danger, I became extra vigilant. Within two minutes, her parasail swooped above us but the wind carried her beyond the landing zone (a common occurrence). Instinctively, I rushed and put my right foot on the rope, thus averting danger. If I had failed to react correctly, the rope would have swept many, many children off their feet. Adults too. The boatmen did the same thing but he only arrived about 20 seconds later.
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.
Incidentally, my son had a very serious skin reaction that day after coming into contact with the sea water. He had to be admitted to a nearby clinic for a few hours for immediate treatment and observation.
It is a fallacy that parasailing draws tourists to Penang. (See NST report: ‘Tourists stay clear of Batu Feringghi Beach‘) What does draw tourists back to a holiday destination is its people, their culture and how cultured the people really are. We have to disambiguate between the perceived wants of citizens and their true needs. Let us put our foot down. And say no to parasailing in Penang.
We must reject parasailing and return beach-goers their right to a safe recreational area.
Update: On 18 January, six days after this article was published on this website, another accident occurred, as reported in the NST of 20 January 2011:
A 23 year-old from Chongqin, China, was injured in her legs when a motorboat operator sped off while she was still preparing to be launched from the beach about 6pm on Tuesday.
Qian Tian Zi was dragged for several metres before going airborne. As the motorboat driver was unaware that she had been hurt, Qian had to endure the pain for the 15-minute parasailing session.
Upon landing, Qian was rushed to a private hospital in an ambulance called for by the staff of the resort where she was staying.
André Loh Yu Hsiong is a Penang resident