New York Legislator to Sign Suffolk County Safer Waterways Act Following Tragic July 4 Boating Accident

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Following a tragic July 4 boating accident off Oyster Bay in New York, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is expected to sign a new law on Thursday that will regulate boating operations to maintain safety standards onboard personal watercrafts. The Suffolk County Safer Waterways Act was created in direct response to the accident on the Fourth of July in which three children drowned following the capsizing of the Kandi Won, a 34-foot Silverton cabin vessel which had 27 passengers onboard.

Statistics show that out of the 26 states that currently require boat operators to complete a safety class before they can operate a motorized vessel, the number of accidents decreased by an average of six percent between 2007 and 2011. There are currently no regulations in place in the state of New York that require a license for boaters or that requires them to receive training on how to operate a vessel. Employing new rules and regulations will exponentially increase boater safety, especially if the state enacts a mandatory boating education regulation.

Having boating safety regulations in place would bring peace of mind to one particular boat accident survivor, Lisa Gaines, who was involved in the July 4 capsizing incident. Gaines can still recount the tragedy and says she has been living a nightmare ever since. Gaines, 45, of Huntington, was sitting on the fly bridge of the Kandi Won when it capsized. The powerboat was on its way back to Huntington from the annual Dolan family fireworks show when the wake of several dozen vessels threw her and 26 others aboard the boat into the water. Gaines, who was not wearing a life jacket, was kept afloat – and alive – by her 12-year-old son Ryan.

About ten minutes later, a passerby pulled Gaines and her son to safety, but her seven-year-old daughter Victoria was one of three children who drowned in the devastating boating accident. Gaines will be on hand when Bellone signs the Suffolk County Safer Waterways Actinto place. The legislation, co-sponsored by Legis. Thomas Barraga, R-West Islip; Lynne Nowick, R-St. James; and Steve Stern, D-Dix Hills, will require all boaters operating a vessel on Suffolk waterways to pass a boating safety course, obtain and display their safety course certificate while out in the waters, and be able to produce it if requested by law enforcement officers.

Gaines herself will be taking a boating certification course this weekend in Bethpage, although she has no intention of going back into the waters anytime soon. She also plans to lobby for better boating safety regulations across the country in honor of her daughter and the two other children who lost their lives in the boating accident.

“People may not realize they are responsible for their wakes. People left in a hurry [the day of the boating accident],” said Gaines. “If these laws were in place and people were required to take courses on an ongoing basis, it would have been in people mind’s how to behave out on the water…Certification, proper security on the water and capacity laws all would have changed the dynamics of that night. There’s no doubt in my mind that if one of those three proposed laws would have been in place prior to that day this would not have happened.”

Unfortunately, boating accidents occur frequently and they are usually the result of someone’s negligence. This tragic accident could have been avoided but when a boat accident is caused by equipment failure, intoxicated operation or any other factor that is the fault of someone’s wrongdoing, victims and their loved ones may be eligible for compensation. If you or someone you know was hurt or killed in an accident involving a personal watercraft, such as a motor boat, jet ski or parasailing boat, turn to one of our boat accident lawyers immediately for assistance. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses, medical care and may even claim reimbursement for property damage. Call us today to schedule a consultation and determine your viable options.