Raleigh, N.C. — A year after a 12-year-old died in a zip line accident in the North Carolina mountains, state lawmakers are considering increased regulations for the courses that send people flying down a wire to which they're harnessed.
"I don't know what we can do that'll absolutely prevent something from happening in the future. Accidents happen," said Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, the sponsor of the Zip Line and Challenge Course Safety Act.
Davis has a keen interest in upgrading safety at zip line courses: His cousin, Bonnie Sanders Burney, was killed last June when she fell from a zip line at Camp Cheerio, a YMCA camp in Alleghany County.
The bill would require annual state inspections, create a state standard for operator training and require companies to report accidents.
"If something is done willfully, then you could be subject to criminal penalties," Davis said.
Critics take issue with costs associated with the proposed requirements and say terms in the bill, such as challenge courses, must be more clearly defined.
Most of the 115 zip line companies now operating in the state – some are part of team-building obstacles courses, while others are at adventures parks – regulate themselves.
At Xtreme Park Adventures, on N.C. Highway 98 near the Durham-Wake county line, general manager Arti Hohenberger said all of his zip line instructors are certified.
"Training is about six days," Hohenberger said. "They have a pamphlet they have to read, a written test and then we also have hands-on tests."
A private company that helped build Xtreme Park's course inspects all of the zip line equipment at least once a year, he said.
"Everything has multiple backups, so if anything were to fail, it's there to make sure it's safe," he said, adding that the park has never has an accident.
If the bill passes, the regulations would take effect in December 2017, but they wouldn't apply to zip lines that aren't open to the public.