Twelve-Year-Old’s Death Causes North Carolina To Rethink Zip Line Regulation.

Presently, only about nine states have passed laws regulating the commercial use of zip lines.  Massachusetts is one of those states.  Since 2008, Massachusetts has been regulating zip lines, ropes courses and climbing walls in an effort to protect the safety of Massachusetts residents and visitors.  Although zip lines can be fun and exciting, they also can be quite dangerous if not regularly inspected and cared for.  Newer zip line systems seek to avoid personal injury accidents by utilizing a full harnessing system and pulleys that cannot be unhooked from the metal zip line itself.

Twelve-year-old Bonnie Sanders Burney was killed on June 11th in a tragic zip line accident at a North Carolina campground.  Burney had been visiting Camp Cheerio in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a popular campsite for children and families, since 1960.  The zip line at Camp Cheerio took riders over land and sea, and had been inspected as early as last March by the Inner Quest, the company who had sold, installed and trained staff on the proper use of the zip lines.  Tragically, the rope holding Burney snapped during her ride, causing her to fall twenty feet to the ground.  She later died of her injuries.

This is the second zip line related death in North Carolina history.  According to the Charlotte Observer, as many as twelve children have been killed in zip line accidents across the United States during the past ten years.  This number, however, could be even higher because as the laws stand today, zip lines are not nearly as regulated as one might assume.  Although amusement park rides are subject to strict regulations requiring regular inspections, zip lines have somehow escaped this life-saving scrutiny.

Now, North Carolina Representative Ted Davis, Jr. is hoping to change the way we think about zip line safety.  His proposed bill, House Bill 39, has been in the works since 2013 after an accident on the Vortex ride at the North Carolina State Fair.  The bill seeks to increase penalties for willfully operating amusement rides illegally.  In response to this recent accident, he has proposed another provision, which would ensure that zip lines are uniformly required to get inspections and insurance. 

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