Kandi Won fatal boating accident inspires boat-capacity bill

On Friday, April 25, 2014, Rep. Steve Israel formally introduced a bill establishing new capacity limits for recreational boats. Israel proposes federal legislation aimed to prevent tragedies like the 2012 sinking in Oyster Bay of an overcrowded boat in which three children died. (Credit: Barry Sloan)

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A mother who lost her daughter when an overcrowded cruiser capsized in Oyster Bay threw her emotional support Friday behind efforts to set capacity limits for more recreational boats.

"Her loss is going to protect people in the future," said Lisa Gaines, speaking outside the Huntington Yacht Club -- near where the ill-fated Kandi Won launched on July 4, 2012.

Standing beside Gaines, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) announced he will introduce a sweeping boating safety bill on Monday.

The measure would require that all new recreational boats less than 45 feet long have a specified maximum weight and limit on the number of individuals allowed aboard. It would also establish limits for how many people could safely be on a cruiser's flying bridge, a steering station atop the cabin.

Federal law currently sets capacity limits only for boats less than 20 feet, and doesn't restrict occupancy on flying bridges. The American Boat and Yacht Council, an industry association, sets voluntary capacity ratings for boats up to 26 feet.

Israel's bill would also provide federal grants for public boating safety classes. The money would come from marine fuel taxes and fishing equipment fees.

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The congressman cited the sinking of the Kandi Won, in which three children died, as the spark behind the proposed legislation.

"That was a tragedy, but it served as a wake-up call," he said.

Gaines, 47, of Huntington Station, has been pushing for tougher boating laws since the accident. She boarded the boat to catch a fireworks show with her 7-year-old daughter, Victoria, and son Ryan, who is now 14.

Mother and son survived, but Victoria and cousins David Aureliano, 12, of Kings Park, and Harlie Treanor, 11, of Huntington Station, were trapped in the cabin and drowned.

"How many more innocent lives must be lost before the necessary and overdue steps are taken to keep boating as a safe, recreational experience for all?" Gaines said Friday. "In loving memory of all those we have lost, we will keep up the fight for change."

Larry Weiss, state legislative liaison for United States Power Squadrons, has been teaching boating courses for years. "Every time I teach it, I learn something new," he said. "It's important for boaters to retake this stuff and to keep up on their education."

An investigation by the Nassau County district attorney's office determined overcrowding was the primary cause of the Kandi Won capsizing. No criminality was involved.

The 34-footer had 27 people aboard. Having four adults and three children on the flying bridge contributed to the instability, investigators found.

Israel has no Senate co-sponsor yet for his safety bill. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been trying to get a similar measure through his chamber since the accident and said he plans to reintroduce it.With Bill Bleyer

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