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Boating safety bill nears passage in Connecticut

Powerboat operators would have to be at least 16 and complete a course in safe towing under the bill.

Powerboat operators would have to be at least 16 and complete a course in safe towing under a bill approved by the Connecticut legislature’s Judiciary Committee on Monday in response to last summer's death of Greenwich teenager Emily Fedorko.

Called "Emily's Law" in memory of the 16-year-old high school girl who was killed by the propeller of a boat operated by a friend, the bill moves to the full state Senate for action.

The bill has changed somewhat since it was introduced in January. Originally it would have prohibited anyone under the age of 18 from towing water skiers or tubers. However, the age was lowered during legislative negotiations.

State Rep. Fred Camillo, R-Greenwich, said the goal has always been to promote water safety.

"Accidents can happen," he said in a Monday interview with The Connecticut Post. "You can never legislate to the point where it's 100 percent foolproof. It was incumbent upon us to make sure that when there's a tragedy like this, you look at the laws and the regulations so the chances of this happening in the future are diminished."

Republican Sen. L. Scott Frantz, who is also from Greenwich, said the bill was a compromise after the boating industry balked at raising the age to 18.

"Most kids brought up in boating families, they're out water skiing at age 8 or 10, and at 12-1/2 they can operate a 1,000-horsepower boat and tow other kids," Frantz said. "That strikes me as ridiculous."

He said the Fedorko family supports the legislation, along with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the boating industry.

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