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Interest In Boating Safety Issues Spurred By Accident Claiming Three Lives

The hope is to create better safety on the water through education

Long Islanders are still mourning the deaths of three children who died in a boating accident aboard the Kandi Won on July Fourth in Oyster Bay Harbor. It has spurred elected officials to look into boating safety. United States Senator Charles E. Schumer, joined by the parents of Long Island boating victim, Victoria Gaines, called on the United States Coast Guard to require capacity limits for recreational boats over 20 feet in length and require that those limits be visibly posted onboard to educate and warn operators and their passengers of the vessels’ total passenger capabilities and weight load. 

“In the memory of the children we lost on that awful day, we can take some simple steps to educate and warn boat owners and their passengers how many people a vessel can safely handle,” said Senator Schumer. “It doesn’t make much sense that we require capacity limits to be posted for most everything from ballrooms to classrooms, and boats under 20 feet in size, but not recreational vessels over 20 feet.”

Public Hearing On August 8

Senator Carl L. Marcellino, along with members of the Senate Standing Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, will be holding a public hearing to examine the current laws and regulations on boating safety in New York State and whether changes are necessary to protect the public on our waters. The hearing will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 11 a.m. at the Town of Oyster Bay Hearing Room, 54 Audrey Avenue, Oyster Bay.

“Despite the emphasis on safety and boater education, tragic accidents continue to occur. The purpose of this hearing will be to review current state laws and regulations governing boating and possible changes to further preserve life and allow the waterways to be responsibly enjoyed by all,” concluded Senator Marcellino.

Victoria’s Law

The parents of one of the three children who died in the boating accident, Victoria Gaines, age 8, appeared on the CBS Today Show with Matt Lauer on Friday, July 13 to talk about their daughter’s death and their hope to make something good come out of the tragedy — Victoria’s Law. She was the youngest of the three children who were trapped inside the cabin of the boat when it suddenly capsized. As allowed by Coast Guard regulations, they were not wearing life jackets while inside the cabin.

“It happened very fast,” said mother Lisa Gaines, speaking on TV. She said the boat leaned over and didn’t recover and the passengers slipped into the water. Her son saved her, and helped her to a floating chair that she clung onto since she doesn’t swim. Paul, the father said, “I hate her loss of life happening to anyone in the future.” He said Victoria’s Law would require boat owners to be licensed and undergo continuing education.

As this paper goes to press the cause of the accident is being investigated as would a car or plane crash involving fatalities. After two days of struggling with heavy winds and rough waters, the Kandi Won was towed into the Oyster Bay Marine Center where FBI and Nassau County Police began their investigation.

It was a multiple tragedy as the happy family and friends outing ended suddenly. The Nassau County Homicide Squad reported the details of the fatal boating accident that occurred on Wednesday, July 4, at 10 p.m. near the entrance to the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor.

According to detectives, a 34-foot Silverton vessel traveling into the Long Island Sound carrying 27 passengers (10 were children and 17 were adults) capsized and sank.  The group had been among the many boats gathered to watch the annual fireworks show in Oyster Bay Harbor in honor of the Fourth of July and the wedding anniversary of Charles and Helen Dolan of Cove Neck who host a party for hundreds to celebrate the event.

The Nassau County Marine Bureau, along with Town of Oyster Bay Constables, New York Police Department scuba divers, Suffolk County Police Department scuba divers, Atlantic Steamer Volunteer Fire Department and their water rescue team, Coast Guard and their scuba team, as well as civilian vessels all responded to assist with the rescue operation.

The victims were identified as David Aurelino, age 12, Harley Treanor, age 11, cousins, and family friend Victoria Gaines, age 8, all Suffolk County residents. Many of the survivors were taken to Seawanhaka Yacht Club and from there were transported to area hospitals and released. No additional injuries were reported. The investigation is ongoing. The FBI was called in to perform the salvage operation to ensure the boat was removed from the water with no new damage to interfere with the investigation as to what caused the accident.

On the Water

Betty Tiska said, “I was on the water that night (July 4) and there were many police boats in the area. People tend to speed away after the fireworks are over because everyone wants to be the first one home.  Why, I don’t know.” She added that it was a good night for fireworks watching. “Billy Joel threw a major bash for 150 people at his Centre Island home that night.  The guests were treated to the Dolans’ fireworks as well, and from a great vantage point.”

Ms. Tiska, who is part of the volunteer crew for the oyster sloop Christeen, was out on the harbor that Wednesday and said, “They pulled the Silverton 34 up from Oyster Bay waters on Wednesday, July 11, at 4 p.m. I was crewing aboard the Christeen with an Oyster Bay Life Enrichment Center charter and just happened to be there with my camera when they did. 

“They were bringing it to John McGrane’s Oyster Bay Marine Center, right after I took the pictures. When we returned to the WaterFront Center dock with our Life Enrichment Center passengers at 5:15 p.m., there were five helicopters hovering over the OBMC.

OB Power Squadron

Past Oyster Bay Power Squadron Commander Larry Weiss talked about the boating accident.  Some people have commented that they prefer not to be among the boaters watching the Fourth of July fireworks because there are so many boats involved. It is such a crowd scene.

Mr. Weiss said, “It’s not because of the fireworks but that there are way too many boaters who are irresponsible and disregard courtesy and barrel through. It is not just then, but on the weekends: on the beautiful weekends in this wonderful boating area and community – since the Indians were here 10,000 years ago there have been people out there enjoying the water.

“The fireworks are a gift to the community,” he said.

“And there are reckless boaters who really need to be taught to take the boating course and need to respect safety on the water. It would be an even greater tragedy for people not to learn that.

“At the Power Squadron we are emphasizing a couple of things. The first is that too few people take the safe boating course. If you are going boating —  take the course. If you have taken it, take it again — it’s fun.”

Read The Owner’s Manual

The next important thing Mr. Weiss suggested is to read your boat manual. They are available online. There are a lot of things they teach, including, never to overload your boat.

Mr. Weiss said, “To drive a car you need to take classes, get training, get a learner’s permit, take a written test and a driving test. To drive a boat all you need are the keys and something there ‘ain’t right.’”

He said that just like when driving on land, “You are responsible for yourself and everyone else. You have to agree what the rules are. Take a class with any boating organization and learn them. Take it seriously. Stay away from one-day classes. Take it over a few weeks so you can really learn and absorb the information. You’ll also have fun and make friends.”

Boating accidents can happen for many reasons including the weather, malfunctioning, overcrowding, a wake and even mechanical problems. Boat owners are responsible for maintenance, too, since it affects the safety of the boat.

In relation to the question of the Kandi Won being overcrowded, Mr. Weiss said, “I have the same size boat, 34 feet, and having that many people (27) on board is inconceivable. I get nervous at 12. Mine has a higher capacity because it has a lower center of gravity. We have a sedan, it’s a little lower.” But what caused the accident has still not been determined by the authorities.

He said there are classes for jet skis and personal watercraft, that passed into law a few years ago. “Kids need to pass it in order to operate a motor boat,” he said.

Mr. Weiss included the information that, “Those age 12 and under must wear a personal floating device but that inside the cabin it is not required. In actuality, if there was any chance to get out of a cabin when a boat was upside down, they wouldn’t have been able to get out.” He said in a recent boating accident people trapped in a cabin, wearing life preservers, couldn’t swim under to get out of the boat. On the water there are so many extenuating circumstances that complicate problems/accidents, he said.

He suggested that the Enterprise Pilot talk to Mitch Kramer of Tow US since he was involved in the rescue dives at the Kandi Won.

Education Is The Answer

Mitch Kramer said he didn’t want to comment on the accident. He was one of the divers at the scene, but he was happy to talk about the importance of boating safety. He said, “The easiest analogy is ‘you are not going out to buy a car because you have the money and just hand your kids the keys.’ In the case of a car, there are permits needed, classes to take, tests to pass and licenses to earn. In boating if you have enough money — you can do that – just get the keys.

“It’s not only dangerous but being on the water there is a whole amount of danger. It is now mandatory in Connecticut to take a safety course. They already have the infrastructure in place.”

Mr. Kramer, whose company shows up to rescue boaters in distress said, “In some of the cases we come across it’s laughable how uneducated people are on the water.

“We have dealt with a person who doesn’t know where they are, and what harbor they are in. Rather than read them the riot act, I say to them, ‘How can you get help if you don’t even know the basics. This is the Long Island Sound and not the ocean and you need to know that when you ask for help.’

“So we are very pro boating education. If you take the course it’s surprising how much sticks when you are out there. It is not a case of just using common sense. There are rules of the road, just like in driving a car; there are currents, tides, and weather patterns. The seas can go from flat and calm to unbelievably horrible in a minute. Then you have the other boaters who may not react correctly. And, when on the water, when something goes wrong, it tends to go very wrong. If it’s windy and the boat doesn’t start you can get in a lot of trouble. People sometimes ask, ‘is this the right anchor?’ There’s a lot to learn,” said Mr. Kramer.