Worker's death spurs questions on zip-line safety

By Gary T. Kubota, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

May 03--The second death of a zip-line worker in the last three years is prompting another look at regulating the industry in Hawaii.

Zip-line industry officials point out there have been no customer deaths involving the thrill rides in Hawaii.

But state Rep. Angus McKelvey (D, West Maui) said he wants to take a look at whether changes in labor laws could help improve worker safety standards.

McKelvey, chairman of the House Consumer Protection Committee, said he wants to reopen the conversation among lawmakers and zip-line operators about worker safety.

Maui police and state labor officials are investigating the death of Pii­holo Ranch Zipline employee Patricia Rabel­lizsa, who fell 150 feet Thursday morning. Pii­holo Ranch Zipline offers treetop canopy tours, zip-line tours and an "Xtreme" zip/climb adventure tour.

In 2011 a Hawaii island zip-line tower collapsed because of weak soil, sending Ted Callaway, 36, of Lahaina plunging to his death. The line was being built along Hono­lii Stream. Another worker was critically injured in the accident.

Daniel Boren said he's all for changing the laws if they improve safety. "But if somebody tries to push through a law just to make a law, it impacts a lot of people," Boren said. Statewide the industry now includes about two dozen businesses, he estimated.

Boren said the company follows certain safety procedures to obtain liability insurance, including third-party independent inspections every year.

State lawmakers took a look at regulating zip-line activities after the 2011 fatality and called for a review by the legislative auditor's office. A legislative audit report in 2012 found the zip-line activity had a lower injury level for clients than snowboarding, archery or football and recommended against regulating it.


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