The parents of 7-year-old testified before state legislators Wednesday that the state enact new boating safety measures in the wake of the July 4 tragedy that took their daughter's life.
At a public hearing of the state Senate Committee on Investigations, a lawyer for the family laid out three measures the family wants incorporated into "Victoria's Law."
"The entire family is devastated by this tragedy, which could have and should have been prevented," said attorney Michael DellaUniversita, seated between parents Paul and Lisa Gaines. "The family is determined that their daughter did not die in vain."
A photo of the young Huntington resident, who died with two other children July 4 when the boat she was on capsized and sank in Oyster Bay, was placed on the table in front of Lisa Gaines.
Another 24 people aboard the 34-foot were rescued. The cause of the sinking remains under investigation by state and federal authorities. Boating safety experts and others said the vessel was that many people.
The Gaines family wants the state to enact a law that would require all boaters to take a state safety course before operating a vessel, enact strict weight limits for all boats and ensure that adequate security measures are in place during major public events on state waterways.
Hundreds of boats were in and around Oyster Bay for an Independence Day fireworks display sponsored by the Dolan family. The private event draws thousands of people to the waterfront annually.
The hearing was called by state Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations.
Marcellino opened the hearing at Oyster Bay Town Hall Wednesday by saying the panel is not designed to investigate the cause of the tragedy but to examine whether laws should be enacted to make the state's waterways safer.
Marcellino said the panel invited the U.S. Coast Guard to testify at the hearing, but it declined. "They don't feel they should have to testify," Marcellino said. "There is no animus between us, but I disagree."
A host of boating safety experts and others testified at the hearing. Among them was the state legislative liaison for the U.S. Power Squadrons. His detailed testimony was punctuated by this personal note he offered as a private boater:
"...No matter what one's experience, there is always something new to learn or something forgotten to be reminded of in any boating safety course," said Weiss, in supporting mandatory boating courses for all operators.
"We want the laws changed so this never happens to anyone's child again," Paul Gaines tearfully told reporters after the family's testimony.
He was holding the picture of his daughter.