State incapable of zipline regulation, audit finds

Published: Oct. 11, 2012 at 10:03 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 12, 2012 at 12:35 AM HST
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Marion Higa
Marion Higa
Rep. Angus McKelvey
Rep. Angus McKelvey
Danny Boren
Danny Boren

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Zipping thousands of feet over ravines is inherently risky, according to a new state audit on ziplines and canopy tours.  Last year on the Big Island a worker died and another suffered serious injuries while adjusting a zipline.  Despite that, the state auditor's report says there is no clear and present danger to public safety to warrant jumping in to regulate it.  Especially considering people participate voluntarily and sign a waiver in advance acknowledging the risks.

"You can't just have a little danger to the public it has to be very clear," said Marion Higa, State Auditor. "You can't really bring the state into a police function unless there is justification for that otherwise there is just no end to this."

The audit also says all 22 operators in the state have insurance which requires an annual inspection.  And the industry is basically self-regulating.

Furthermore the state isn't capable of oversight without the staffing, money or expertise to even know if ziplines are safe.  If it did inspect there would be a false sense of security and create a huge liability for the state.

"You can't protect everybody from all risk. That's the problem," said Higa.  "The few injuries we could get data on were not so much because of travelling on the zipline, its more people tripping when they're on the ground."

"The auditor's report brings up valid reasons why at this point it probably wouldn't be prudent to move ahead with a fully established regulatory scheme like you would with some other board's practices," said State Representative Angus McKelvey, (D) Maui, who has tried to pass zipline regulation in the past.

Zipline operators say they follow strict industry guidelines and are constantly looking for ways to improve safety.

"There are hundreds of thousands of people that go zip every year and very few safety incidents.  There was obviously a tragic situation last year but that is not a typical situation," said Danny Boren, Skyline Eco Adventures President. "The industry has a number of safety standards that are followed by all operators in the State of Hawaii and to the best of my knowledge everyone is striving to improve safety regardless of what happens with state regulations."

"I feel like, a year has passed, a lot of those issues we had were addressed and seem to be addressed positively which would prevent an accident from happening which is great," said Tony DeLellis, KapohoKine Adventures Co-Owner, the company involved in the fatal accident last year. "The issues that concerned us have I believe been addressed."

With the audit conclusions it doesn't appear the state will get carried away with new zipline regulations.

"I'm sure measures will come up but how far they advance given the auditor's report I don't think it will be very far," said Rep. McKelvey.

To read the full audit click here.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.