Suffolk Poised to Enact Boater Safety Law

Family of Victoria Gaines help spur political action with Suffolk County Safer Waterways Act.

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.” 

Micah Danney (Editor) October 11, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Can opinions be expressed without the name-calling please?
Diane Fitzgerald October 11, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing that " children" are operating small boats---this boating tragedy certainly wasn't the fault of a child, but an irresponsible & careless adult who had (allegedly) many years of boating experience. There are a lot of "idiots" out there who should be held accountable for their actions, but I have a big problem with this woman blaming other boaters for their wakes. Boats make wakes, plain & simple. And if you're not a good swimmer, wouldn't that cross your mind as you're going out on a boat at night? Would it not cross your mind to ask for a flotation device? And, ONE FOR YOUR CHILD?
Diane Fitzgerald October 11, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Correct---this accident happened because of an irresponsible & careless boat owner/operator. I agree with you about the manslaughter charges too---putting a boating course law into place doesn't fix stupid. The guy was careless, wreckless & didn't care until the boat went down. Why weren't those kids wearing flotation devices? Now that's A LAW!
Jason Molinet October 11, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I grew up on the water. There's a level of trust you give a boat operator, whether they merit it or not. Nothing trumps experience AND training. You might think you know how to handle yourself, until the critical moment comes.
Jeff October 11, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Point is I heard it was passed this afternoon. So I guess we have another layer of government regulation on the citizens because we cant think for ourselves. Funny that you are not required to have liability insurance, but you now need a safety course.
Janet B. October 11, 2012 at 06:06 PM
"In the 26 states requiring some or all adults to take a safety class before operating a motorized boat, the number of accidents declined an average of 6 percent between 2007 and 2011, U.S. Coast Guard statistics show. In several states, including Connecticut and Delaware, boating accidents declined 30 percent or more." Let's accept that training can at least limit some tragedies from happening. This grieving mother is trying to make something right come out of something terribly wrong. Her life will never be the same. Enough with the "common sense" comments. I can almost guarantee every single one of us has had a moment where we wished we could go back and time and use our common sense to change the outcome of a life-changing event. And who knows how many times our common sense was lacking but we managed to walk away.
John Fay October 11, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Well said Janet B. Thank you.
FYI October 11, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Yes, they probably can, but as a "journalist" is that the question you wanted to ask?
FYI October 11, 2012 at 08:04 PM
I'd love for anyone to answer this question for me. There were marine units all over that evening. WHY didn't they stop this very obviously overloaded vessel? This is THEIR job, and I'd love to know how many stops were made and summonses issued that day. But I'm not holding my breath because I suspect the numbers are being kept very quiet.
John Gruber October 11, 2012 at 08:15 PM
you shouldn't have the "choice" to operate a boat without minimal safety requirements. That's like saying it's my "choice" to drive a car without taking the proper training to at least reduce the risk of accidents. There's clearly a right and wrong answer and there shouldn't be a "choice" about doing something that can risk lives without some sort of formal/informal training/info course
John Gruber October 11, 2012 at 08:19 PM
there's a difference between being an "idiot" and being uninformed. The boat tipping was caused by lack of common sense which can't be regulated, but that's not to say there aren't accidents caused by boaters not being properly equipped with the right information or training. Just like with any activity in which people's well being is at risk, you have to be properly informed. you shouldn't have a "choice" whether to do something potentially life threatening without preparing properly
Laura October 11, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Have you ever been in a situation, just does not look right. You hold a childs hand, crossings a street. When small you put them in a stroller, so they do not run. The owner is partially responsible. If the boat was over crowded....walk away. Thank them for the invite and don't get on the boat. I do not know how to swim. I don't go on boats. I think it should be a requirement, you must know how to swim to go on any boat.
NPTGirl October 11, 2012 at 09:01 PM
^^^That was the best comment yet.
Bill Bulck October 11, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Let's see, we require testing, both written and practical, to obtain a Motor Vehicle Operaters License, and in fact most of us took a semester long driver education class in high school. We are inundated with DONT DRINK AND DRIVE CAMPAINS, and all along the roadways there are regulatory signals and signage telling us what to do. That is why there are no vehicular accidents or fatalities on our highways. Give me a break.
Jason Molinet October 11, 2012 at 10:50 PM
It's official: http://huntington.patch.com/articles/mandated-boating-safety-course-becomes-law
Waterman October 11, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I don't know folks..... I have a copy of the law in front of me and it says in Section 3, Sub A " No RESIDENT of Suffolk County shall operate a pleasure vessel upon the waters of Suffolk County unless the operator is the holder of a boating safety certificate issued by the Commissioner of the New York State......" bla, bla bla. Do we have any legal folks out there? I interpret that to mean that if I live any where out of Suffolk County, I DO NOT HAVE TO COMPLY WITH THIS LAW. How about it Jason, what does your legal staff say??? How can you have two people operating vessels along side one another, and the Suffolk RESIDENT (without a Cert) is violating the law and the NON Resident is ok???
Roni Jenkins October 12, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Thank you Janet for the statistics. Again, although it will not prevent accidents from happening, hopefully it will minimize the number of accidents.
Rosa vega October 12, 2012 at 12:55 AM
We are fast to pass judgment but without the full story I am sure they are still investigating this so who are we to say whos fault is it we don't know maritime law says length and width by fifteen that is the amount of ppl allowed on this boat that brings it to 27.5 adults at 150 lbs each do we know if there were full tanks and gear on the boat no we do not but it has been said that 17 of them were kids. But yes if you don't know how to swim or your kids life vest should be worn by all. But all of the people that were not in the cabin made it so life vest would not have played in a roll in these kids in the cabin. And who is to say that any of those people the owner or operators were not licensed I have heard that they were. And how come not once have we heard about the rescue efforts of the coast guard that night on the video you see on the news you see the people that were on the boat trying to save those kids and the coast guard in the back ground but none of them trying to save these kids. I heard it took 2 hours to get a diver on site to save them and they only got one out before the boat went down so what did they do for those two hours ? Maybe the wakes from other boast caused the boat to tip but we do not know where everyone was to say it was over crowded or weight not in the right places or waves or wakes none of us were there to know that is the investigaters job and I'm sure they are doing there job.
Algebra October 12, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Rosa, Did you ever hear of a "run on" sentence? Quatation marks or anything having to do with grammar? It is very difficult to read your statement.
Roselle Vega October 12, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Wow ok I didn't know I was being judged on my periods and question marks .... Let me take a mental note.. Note to self... Make sure you use every period and question mark as needed.. You are not being judged on what you write only how you write it...
Roselle Vega October 12, 2012 at 01:59 AM
They were out.. They were there within 2 min of the distress call..
Roselle Vega October 12, 2012 at 02:11 AM
I think they said on the news it seats 6...and there was 4 adults and 2 or three children.. that was the latest news flash
Micah Danney (Editor) October 12, 2012 at 02:27 AM
It's a request more than a question
BLIGH October 12, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Grubner, You shouldn't have the choice to do a lot of things. But realistically we live in a society were the choice to do bad things is not preventable . We should be able to operate a car or boat without minimum safety requirements simply because it would be extremely difficult and costly to take that choice away. Currently, the "choice" to drive a car or a boat without proper training is a "choice". It is not even debatable unless cars or boats don't exist. You only have to look at the recent tragic deaths of four teens on the Southern State Parkway to see that the choice exists. Take a drive in your car and see other drivers make bad choices all the time. Then watch a police car pull into traffic and every one becomes angels. Increased enforcement and heavy penalties will go further in reducing these tragedies and will encourage people into taking boating courses voluntarily; which would be the right choice.
Algebra October 12, 2012 at 02:26 PM
It was almost impossible to read your posting, Rosa.
CATDOG October 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Hog Driver October 12, 2012 at 06:59 PM
As a matter of fact, yes I do. Years ago. And I got it not because I was mandated to get it, but 1, because I wanted to do it for personal knowledge and as a precursor to a USCG 6-pack, and 2, because I got a break on my insurance. And I can tell you that it wasn't going to make a difference for maybe 90% of the people in that class, who were interested in only one thing - getting that little piece of paper for PWC. The county can have this big show of wrapping their collective arms around this woman and putting out this worthless, feel-good legislation, but it won't change the behavior of any numbskull who is only there for that piece of paper. Oh, and I was a Nassau resident who kept boats in Suffolk, so I guess Bellone's BS law wouldn't have any teeth.
peter cirino October 12, 2012 at 07:10 PM
BRAVO HD!!! Perfectly stated. as I said earlier; "a certificate will not extinguish the complete irresponsibility and the bulletproof carelessness which seems to be the profile of the typical witless Looong Islan-da. end of story.
monkey lewis October 14, 2012 at 09:45 PM
It is Orwellian BAD THINK to question this Agenda 21 feel good law.This will generate revenue and keep people off the water.You will be criminalized for having more than one kid and drinking a beer in the near future.
monkey lewis October 14, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Do you work for Cass Sunsteins cognitive infiltration department?


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