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Legislature turns away bill on safety rules for zip lines

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    A bill calling for state oversight of the safety of the zip-line industry was deferred Thursday, essentially killing the bill for this session. Above, a worker was killed and another critically injured when a tower collapsed last year at Kapohokine Adventures in Paukaa, north of Hilo.

Owners of Hawaii’s popular zip lines, under increased scrutiny since a man plunged to his death last year, won’t be placed under state supervision, at least for now.

Lawmakers deferred a bill Thursday calling for the state to oversee safety for the tourist attractions that send thrill-seekers gliding along cables strung high above rural areas of Hawaii at speeds approaching 30 mph.

The move, which effectively kills the bill, means safety issues will be up to the industry.

Legislators plan to study the matter further. The House will consider a resolution calling for review of industry measures.

For now, zip-line companies will need to file proof of insurance with the state insurance commissioner.

The legislation is a response to the fatal accident on Hawaii island, where a construction worker fell 200 feet while adjusting a cable. Another worker was critically injured when a tower collapsed at the same time.

The state does not regulate the thrill-ride industry and, as the Labor Department told lawmakers, does not have inspectors on staff who are qualified to do so.

However, the department, which is still investigating the fatal accident, also questioned whether zip-line and canopy-tour operators should inspect themselves. Owners of boilers and pressure vessels — including amusement rides — must meet high standards to inspect the equipment they use.

Industry representatives have testified on the measure several times this session, generally in favor of regulation. They already have to go through stringent inspections to qualify for insurance. Without adequate insurance, companies cannot receive promotion or referrals through state activity desks and hotels.

Zip lines take riders for rides as high as 280 feet above ground, said Kanda­lin Deponte, manager of Big Island Eco Adventures in Kohala.

Last year’s fatal accident at a different zip line put a damper on the whole industry, Deponte said.

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