Tourist Killed in Zip Line Fall in Puerto Rico

As reported by the Associated Press, a 56-year-old cruise ship passenger from New Mexico has died after plunging from a zip line in Puerto Rico, police said Tuesday.

Police said Marsha Boekeloo fell 20 feet from the line at the Hacienda Campo Rico, just east of San Juan. Police said Boekeloo could not move her legs and complained of chest pain after falling. She died at a hospital hours later.

The tour was organized by Ecoquest Adventures & Tours, a San Juan-based tour company specializing in zip lining, rappelling and hiking. Owner Ivan Purcell told The AP that the park will remain closed until an independent investigation into the accident is completed.

“We are in communication with the woman’s family,” he said, and denied police reports that the company delaying reporting the death.

Boekeloo was visiting Puerto Ricoo on a cruise ship and was part of a group of 24 people that visited the park, Purcell said. He said the park was certified by the Illinois-based Association for Challenge Course Technology and that all tour guides are trained in first aid, rescue and risk management. He said the park is inspected regularly by the guides.

James Borishade, executive director of the Association for Challenge Course Technology, said in a phone interview that Purcell’s membership with the association expired last year. He said adventure parks are supposed to have a thorough, third-party inspection every year, but that there is no agency to ensure the inspections actually occur.

“It’s a self-regulating industry in many areas,” he commented.

A few U.S. states have government oversight of such adventure parks, but it is not the norm, Borishade said.

In Puerto Rico, some legislators are calling for government regulation of adventure tours that are becoming popular across the island. Representative Urayoan Hernandez filed such a bill last year, but the measure was tabled.

“This can’t happen again,” he said in a phone interview. “We need to ensure people’s safety and prevent the construction of adventure parks without any type of regulation.”

Injuries from zip line accidents have surged across the U.S., according to a study published this month in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. Nearly 17,000 people were treated for injuries from 1997 to 2012, a majority of them during the study’s last four years. More than 200 commercial zip lines operate across the U.S., along with thousands more amateur lines.