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Tubing accident leads to calls for more regulations

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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