The first Huntington Safe Boating Week begins Monday, driven by last year's July 4 boating accident that left three Long Island children dead.
With boating season just around the corner, the event will run from May 13-23 and includes free and discount-priced courses, such as the state's safe boating course, a marine radio class and another to focus on onboard emergencies. The goal: to teach people how to be safe on the water.
The event, coinciding with National Safe Boating Week, was organized by the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht & Boating Clubs, in conjunction with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Neptune and Power Squadron and the Town of Huntington.
"The mission is to prevent accidents and to prepare people for accidents that may arise," said Jackie Martin, commodore of the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht & Boating Clubs.
Lisa Gaines, whose 7-year-old daughter, Victoria, died in the July 4 accident in Oyster Bay, was on the steering committee for the event. The other two children who died were cousins Harlie Treanor, 11, of Huntington Station, and David Aureliano, 12, of Kings Park. The three drowned after a boat capsized and sank in Oyster Bay.
"I don't want to ever see another family go through what we have gone through," Gaines, of Huntington Station, said about why she decided to join the committee. After Victoria's death, her family has pushed for boating safety reforms and has campaigned for new legislation.
"It is the most horrific tragedy for a parent, a family, a community to go through," she said. She said it is important for all people, from experienced boaters to the passengers on board, to be educated in boat safety.
"It is in everyone's best interest . . . to know what the rules are," she said.
One step the county has taken toward bolstering boat safety was the passage of a law that requires all boaters to pass a safety course, to take effect in November. The safe boating week event will feature a free three-day course that will fulfill this requirement, and the state requirement as well. It runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Huntington Fire Department on Leverich Place, and participants must attend all three classes.
The event will also feature a free vessel safety check, so boaters can make sure they are complying with all laws, without fear of summonses or fees.
"We want to bring the boating community together," Martin said. "It is kind of a healing experience," she added, alluding to the July 4 accident.
Huntington's senior harbormaster, Harry Acker, said it is important to keep people talking about and training in boating safety.
"Nothing gets people more focused on boating safety than a tragedy," Acker said. But, he added, attention fades as time passes.
"Something like this will keep people focused," he said, "and if it is done in the memory of those poor children, even better."