What Your State Doesn't Know About Zip Lines Could Kill You

In Lexington, Kentucky, at the Red Mile Crawfish Festival an 11 year-old girl’s zip line snapped as soon as she took off from the platform, causing her to fall 20 feet.  While investigating the freighting scene, police discovered that the carabiner clip on her harness was broken.

In Sevierville, Tennessee, after failing to properly attach himself to the zip line, an employee fell 40 some odd feet from one of the overhead lines, breaking his leg.

In Evarts, Kentucky, a Boone County man at Black Mountain Off Road Adventure Park slammed into the platform at the end of the zipline and was life-flighted to the hospital with several injuries.

In Springfield, Tennessee, a 43 year old woman at Honey Suckle Farm was life-flighted to the hospital after undershooting the step onto the platform and falling 15 feet to the ground.

Hundreds of accidents like these have happened across the country and those numbers continue to rise by the booming popularity of zipline parks and systems sprouting up throughout the Southeast.

These incidents make sense to Holly Harris VonLuehrte, Chief of Staff of Kentucky Department of Agriculture who explains “You know how they inspected zip lines prior to this administration?  We were told they just sent the biggest ol’ boy they could find down the line. If he made it, it was considered safe. Seriously.”  Both a sad and scary thought seeing as zipline systems are so prevalent and bring in so many tourist dollars that the Kentucky Tourism Cabinet encourages visitors to sample from more than a dozen zip line systems around the state through its “Zip the Bluegrass” publicity campaign.  However, the Kentucky cabinet makes no representations that it endorses or regulates any of the individual zip line parks that it encourages tourists to visit.  VonLuehrte adds, “We weren’t going to be a part of vouching for something if we couldn’t be sure it was safe.” – Zip lines aren’t inspected or regulated by governmental authority in Kentucky, John Cheves, Kentucky.com, May 19, 2014.

Jonathan Brooks, president of the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials comments that, “Most states do not regulate zip lines, choosing instead to consider them as a “sport,” in which customers arrive with some knowledge of what they are doing.” In fact, in 2012, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture persuaded state lawmakers to exempt zip lines from “rides and attractions” so that there would be no governing body.  It’s not just the State of Kentucky that has no current state oversight, the lines are blurred across the nation and the zip line industry remains largely unchecked and unregulated.

The moral of the story:  don’t be so quick to assume that just because a zip line company is up and running and that there haven’t been reported injuries that it will remain that way or that it is in compliance with safety standards. When you or your family takes to the wide-spread adventure craze of zip lining across tree tops, it is of utmost importance that you are extremely alert during the entire process.  You need to make sure that you read, understand and agree with all documents that you are asked to sign.  Don’t just skim to the bottom of the page and sign.  Pay close attention and don’t be afraid and take time to ask questions during the training course.

If you or someone you know has suffered a serious or fatal zip line or canopy tour injury due to what you believe is a result of the negligence or wrong-doing on part of the company, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries even if you signed a waiver. The experienced injury attorneys at Rocky McElhaney Law Firm fight for you and the compensation you deserve.