Tubing accident leads to calls for more regulations

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The 16-year-old operator of a powerboat involved in a fatal accident Wednesday afternoon on Long Island Sound was licensed by the state of Connecticut and many in the state are calling for stricter regulations.

“The death of a Greenwich teenager in a boating accident highlights the need for more stringent boat operator requirements,” reads the opening line of an editorial today in The Hartford Courant.

In a letter addressed to Greenwich’s legislative delegation in Hartford, local Selectman Drew Marzullo, a professional paramedic who responded to Wednesday’s accident, asked several state representatives to consider strengthening boat-licensing requirements.

“On the heels of [Wednesday's] accident, I propose that Connecticut state legislators examine the state boating statutes and bring them in line with current state requirements for obtaining a motor vehicle driver’s license,” Marzullo wrote, according to a report by GreenwichTime.com. “A boat powered by an engine can be just as dangerous as a car, if not more so because of the risk of drowning or being thrown overboard during a crash.”

Under state law there is no age requirement to obtain a Safe Boating Certificate, the equivalent of a boating license. When boating, certified operators 16 or older, such as the unnamed operator in Wednesday’s accident, are considered adults under the law and allowed to operate a boat without supervision.

Marzullo suggested requiring supervision for boaters up to age 18, as well as limiting “the number of same-aged peers that are allowed to be on the watercraft without adequate adult supervision, similar to the motor vehicle laws in Connecticut for drivers between the ages of 16 and 18.”

About 2 p.m. Wednesday in clear, calm conditions, four Greenwich girls were boating on Long Island Sound off Greenwich Point Park. “The girls, who are all 16, were operating a privately owned recreational boat powered by an outboard motor,” according to the Greenwich Police Department.

The boat was identified as a 21-foot Wahoo with a 200-hp outboard engine in a report by The Courant.

Two of the girls were being towed on a tube. The driver and a passenger were on the boat.

“For a yet-to-be-determined reason, the two girls who had been tubing were in the water and came into contact with the propeller of the outboard engine,” police said. “The first girl was transported to the Stamford Hospital for a soft tissue injury to her leg, which required extensive stitching. The second girl sustained a fatal wound and died at the scene.”

There is no speed limit on Long Island Sound, although police said it was too early to determine whether speed was a factor in the accident. The Greenwich Police Department’s Marine Section is investigating.

“It’s an open investigation, so there are a lot of facts that we’re still working on,” police Lt. Kraig Gray told The Courant.

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Comments

6 comments on “Tubing accident leads to calls for more regulations

  1. Mark Passeri

    What a bunch of crap! This is so typical. So if the operator had been 40 years old it couldn’t still happen? It does, unfortunately. There are so many factors here, and age is probably not one of them. When we were kids, (I’m 57 now) we were allowed to operate boats alone under 10 HP at a very young age, I think it was about 12 years old. I lot of my summer time friends had 12 foot aluminum boats with a 4 -9.9 HP outboards on them, and we ran all over the place with them. As I recall at 12, we took our “Young Skippers Course”, and got a certificate that allowed us to run basically any pleasure boat our family might own. We were taught responsible boating practices, that I observe every day being broken, mostly by older operators in there 30- 50’s!!! Most young boaters I see, (and I’m a boat dealer, so I see a lot of them), come from families where safe, responsible boating is taught at a very young age. Boater education is key, yes, but age has little to do with it in my opinion. My kids have been operating boats since they were 5 years old, with supervision of course. By the time my son was 14, he was the best driver I had for pulling me water skiing, (including barefoot skiing at speeds of 40 MPH), including ALL of my adult friends. I still to this day prefer he drive for me over anybody else. My daughter is also a pretty darn good boat driver, as is my daughter in law, who has been taught by us since she was about 14 years old.

    Another example of shoddy reporting’ “There is no speed limit on Long Island Sound, although police said it was too early to determine whether speed was a factor in the accident.” Yeah, so let’s put a speed limit on the Sound, even though we don’t know if speed was a factor, is the implication here. So typical Soundings.

    Anybody who has pulled a skier or tube knows that speed wouldn’t likely be a factor, and that a speed limit would have no effect on this particular accident. It is fairly clear that when the girls fell off the tube, the pilot of this craft went back to get them, and somehow didn’t know where they were, and ran them over. How could a speed limit have helped here, other than a speed limit to get back to your skiers being set at a low number, which could also be a bad regulation if your fallen skier was injured our worse had another boat bearing down on them. I have had that very thing happen, and had to use my boat to protect my fallen skier by intercepting the other drivers path with my boat. Once they realize what I did, they are always grateful that I called their attention to my fallen skier.
    In general, the laws in place already work. Do people who drive boats, especially newcomers of ALL ages need better boater education? YES most definitely do ! That should be the focus, not age. As in any activity, there are risks, and they call them accidents for a reason. Government cannot protect us from everything, as much as some would like to make you think it can. An educated population is the best answer to all of America’s wows, not the dumbing down of America, and the elimination of freedom.

  2. Gregg Burdick

    Only when a reasonable effort has been made to provide proper education has failed should more legislation be considered.

  3. sweecon

    Well stated, I also was out boating with my peers from the age of 12 after taking the safe boating course, and my three kids have been safely on the water since birth, and now at 12,14 and 16 doing the same that I was. How can Drew compare boating to driving when they are nothing alike? There is way less to focus on other some simple rules of the road and not hitting anything. No trees, no utility poles, no cars right next to you or passing in the opposite direction, no ice or bad conditions, no traffic lights, and much more including very bad other drivers.
    This was a horrible accident without question, and should not have happened, but to penalize the general boating population makes very little sense.

  4. affmarine

    Let’s all say a few prayers for all involved. Don’t judge anyone until all the facts are disclosed. The media will do that for us no doubt. They have no respect for waiting for the facts, they have no respect in talking with family, friends, victims etc. All they care about is who reported it first. They have no problem hounding all for the story. Its a very sad day for all involved. Leave them alone and let the investigation be completed.

  5. capt_geomarc

    I’m a USCG MMC Captain. Do not call the joke that Connecticut teaches in the boating course a license it’s a certificate. A license would require a higher level of training and knowledge. Most recreational boaters don’t know the rules or choose not to obey them. This is similar to an auto license. If people choose not to follow the rules on the road. What makes you think that thay will follow the rules on the water. If I break the rules I can loose my license and my job. The USCG rules will always find the someone is at fault by not following the rules. There are no accidents on the water without fault.

  6. ricfish01

    Our prayers go out to the family’s involved.
    Accidents happen. It is up to us, the parents of kids fortunate enough to enjoy this wonderful activity to ensure they have plenty of experience before they are entrusted with command of a powerboat.
    Having been raised with a dock in his backyard since he was 4, along with the hours we spent teaching and allowing him supervised access to our 13′ outboard, my wife knows to get out of my sons way if something should happen to me while boating. At thirteen, he has had his safe boaters license for two years.

    It is up to us to make sure we do everything to give the next generation of boaters the tools and the experience to keep the “regulators” looking elsewhere.

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