Lisa Gaines could sense the boat sway whenever she closed her eyes in the months after the fatal accident. It felt like vertigo and the end result has been a living nightmare.
Gaines, 45, of Huntington, was sitting on the fly bridge of the Kandi Won when it capsized late July 4 in the waters off Oyster Bay. The 34-foot powerboat was making its way back to Huntington from the annual Dolan family fireworks display when the wake of dozens of vessels spilled Gaines and 26 others aboard into the black water.
Never a good swimmer, Gaines was not wearing a life vest. She struggled to tread water. Her 12-year-old son, Ryan, kept her calm – and afloat.
“My son grabbed me, put his arm around me and said, ‘I got you mom,’” Gaines said. “He saved my life.”
They were both plucked from the water by a passerby about 10 minutes later. But her daughter, 7-year-old Victoria, drowned along with two other children in a tragedy that spurred political action.
Gaines will be on hand Thursday when Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signs into law the “Suffolk County Safer Waterways Act.” See attached PDF.
Co-sponsored by Legis. Thomas Barraga, R-West Islip; Lynne Nowick, R-St. James; and Steve Stern, D-Dix Hills, the law will require all boaters operating a vessel on Suffolk waterways to complete an approved boating safety course, to possess and display their safety course certificate while boating and be able to produce it upon request by law enforcement agencies.
“People may not realize they are responsible for their wakes. People left in a hurry [July 4],” said Gaines, who along with ex-husband Paul, has fought to enact boating legislation in the three months since. “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.”
While Gaines, a sales rep, has no intention of spending time out on the water, she is taking a boating certification course this weekend in Bethpage. She also plans to keep pushing for more legislation at the state and federal level through Victoria Gaines Memorial.com.
“Certification, proper security on the water and capacity laws all would have changed the dynamics of that night," Gaines said. "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.”