On July 26, Fire Island Ferries, Inc. crew rescued six passengers from a capsized motorboat off the shore of Ocean Bay Park.
Among the Fire Island ferry rescue are other tragedies in local waters, including a recent boating accident resulting in the death of a 24-year-old Lindenhurst resident and a jet ski accident that claimed two lives in the Bronx.
Supervisor Angie Carpenter cited COVID-19 as the suspect for the rise in boating accidents, as the pandemic has prompted an increase in the sale of both recreational boats and jet skis.
The Town of Islip and the Village of Babylon referred to three main incidents among others to direct the attention of Long Islander’s to the influx of inexperienced boating this season at a joint press conference on July 29.
A panel of local officials assembled to encourage Long Islander’s to be safer on the water, considering the majority of accidents have been related to “unfortunately … inexperience and alcohol,” Carpenter said.
According to a New York Times article published on July 26, a growing number of people are re-arranging their summer vacation plans to accommodate social distancing, and many of these plans relate to boating. Alongside boating, Carpenter referenced the rise in the sale of jet skis, paddleboards and backyard pools.
Carpenter was joined by Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino, two Town of Babylon councilmen and General Manager and Director of Operations for the Fire Island Ferries Dave Anderson.
“It’s just like riding a car,” Scordino said. “Just because you’re out in the open, it doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Everyone who has a boat, a personal watercraft, should be taking the Coast Guard course for boating.”
The panel of local officials are also calling for the public’s awareness of the newly enacted Brianna’s Law, encouraging operators of motorboats and watercraft to obtain a boating safety certificate. According to New York State, all operators of motorized vessels, regardless of age, will need a boating safety certificate by Jan. 1, 2025.
Brianna’s Law is named in memory of Brianna Lieneck, an 11-year-old girl from Long Island who was killed in a boating accident in 2005, related to inexperience. In a 2019 press release, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the horrific accident that took part in inspiring the law “make[s] this situation real for people … through this law Brianna is saving lives and her love lives on.”
“We encourage people to use the waterway,” Anderson said. “We want you to be responsible. Because if everybody’s responsible, the death rate will plummet, and that’s where we would like to be.”
UPDATE: The Fire Island Ferries crew aboard the “Fireball” were honored with Public Service Awards in recognition of their heroic efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard at a ceremony held on Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
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