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On Monday morning, September 7, park dispatch at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area received a cell phone call indicating a visitor had sustained severe head injuries. National Park Service rangers and Classic Lifeguard Helicopter responded immediately to a location on Lake Powell near the mouth of the San Juan River.
Arriving on scene, rangers found a 42-year-old female suffering from severe head injuries. The patient was provided immediate care and evacuated by helicopter to the Flagstaff Medical Center. A second individual, a 17-year-old male, had also been injured, and was evacuated by NPS ranger patrol boat and transported to the Page Hospital.
The on-site investigation revealed that the victims were mother and son, and both had been injured in a parasailing accident. The young man in the parasail was attempting to take off from a ledge approximately 10 feet above the waterline. Several other individuals, including the young man’s mother, were on the ledge observing the parasailing. When the boat began to pull forward, the sail went sideways, entangling the woman and dragging her a short distance before she was dropped onto her head along the shore. The parasailor also struck the ledge several times before being dragged into the water.
Parasailing, which involves an individual attached to a parachute being pulled behind a boat, is prohibited without a permit by federal regulation in all National Park System areas. The activity can be extremely hazardous, particularly in an area such as Lake Powell, where high rock cliffs, high winds, and heavy boat traffic can endanger both the parasailor and the public. Glen Canyon does not issue permits for this type of activity because of the dangers involved and past accidents. A citation was issued to the boat operator.