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Parents Plead for Boating Law to Honor Lost Daughter

Victoria Gaines' parents testify in Oyster Bay before state legislators probing July 4 tragedy.

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 at Oyster Bay Town Hall, 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 Victoria, 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 on July 4.

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 Oyster Bay hearing 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 animous between us, but I disagree."

A host of boating safety experts and others testified at the hearing. Among them was Plainview's 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.

Danny Michaels August 09, 2012 at 01:52 AM
I've always wondered why there is no mandatory requirement for someone wishing to handle and operate a boat of any size, to attend and pass a boating safety course. We all need to pass a test to get a permit to drive a motor vehicle, why no such requirement for boat operation? I assure you that operating a boat is NOT like operating a car. Just makes sense to me if everyone operating a boat to have attended and passed a boating safety course. Incredible as it may seem. Anyone, yes anyone, can get onto a boat 10 feet, 20, 30 or larger without any basic understanding of waterway navigation, green lights and bouys versus red lights and buoys, and head out onto the NYS waterways. Foolish? You bet, but its going on each and every day. I think one practical remedy to ensure safety on the waterways is legislation to make boating safety course mandatory before anyone could operate a vessel on NYS waterways, and the certificate of satisfactory completion be presented upon demand to the USCG, or any Authority on the waterways. John is correct, we cannot legislate common sense, but we can legislate better oversight of exactly who is operating boats on our waterways, and what their level of training, and knowledge of boat safety is.
Joe Dowd August 09, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Great comments on this subject, and many are in line with the experts who testified at Wednesday's hearing. There is a complication that is surfacing: On land, cars are routinely stopped by a relatively large number of police agencies, local, state and county. On the waterways, there may not be nearly the enforcement capability to ensure compliance. I think that part of the issue is a portion of what is preventing it in NY state. Interestingly, New Jersey and Connecticut have such laws, but how effectively they are enforced is another matter. I'd like to hear from others on this.
leapinglaughter August 09, 2012 at 03:34 AM
This tragedy could have and should have been prevented BY HER PARENTS. Weren't they on the boat with her? Seven years old on an overcrowded party boat -- why didn't they put a life jacket on her and keep an eye on her? No, you can't legislate common sense.
Peter August 10, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Every boat comes equipped with a manufacturers plaque, posted next to the helm, that clearly states IN BOLD PRINT, the number of people allowed aboard for the maximum safe load of the boat. WERE ALL THESE PEOPLE ON BOARD BLIND? - Would they all have boarded a 6 person Piper plane with 10 already aboard? People...STOP THE NANNY STATE STUFF ...you can't have a cop check every boat. Most boaters are very intelligent people, who instinctively realize that boating can be VERY DANGEROUS and take good common sense precautions as well as take the Coast Guard Auxiliary Boaters Safety Course. It is a few people who cause such tragedies. leapinlaughter hit the nail on the head ! BE RESPONSIBLE.
Grifhunter August 13, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Please, no more laws. Especially no more laws with victims names attached as these are often born of emotion and political grandstanding, rather than compelling public policy needs.

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