House OKs regulations for zip-line courses

May 6, 2019

Four years after a girl died on a zip line at a camp in the mountains, North Carolina still lacks state regulations for zip lines.

House members voted 70-46 Monday to regulate the attractions, sometimes called aerial adventure or ropes courses.

Such attractions are currently required only to have liability insurance, but the bill would require them to meet one of four national standards, undergo a yearly inspection, check all equipment daily and report serious injuries and deaths to the state.

Operators who don’t meet the rules could face fines and criminal penalties. The rules wouldn’t apply to military training courses or to zip lines not open to the public.

Rep. Ted David, R-New Hanover, has pushed for the rules twice before and failed to win passage. His niece, Sanders Burney, was the 12-year-old girl who was killed in a zip-line accident in western North Carolina in 2015.

Skeptics say the bill goes too far in imposing regulations and penalties.

“Kids are going to take risks. Let them take those risks,” said Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, who used to operate a summer camp in the mountains.

McGrady said far more youths are hurt riding horses and climbing rocks at camp than on zip lines, which he said have claimed two lives statewide in the last 20 years.

“Normally, that doesn’t trigger a regulatory scheme,” he said, predicting nonprofits could shut down courses or their camps altogether rather than risk the penalties that would be imposed under the legislation.

“I’m not trying to put anybody out of business,” Davis said. “If you just abide by the rules, if you just do what you’re supposed to do, there are no repercussions.”