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Oyster Bay accused of running unsafe boats

Two bay constables in separate actions are accusing Oyster Bay Town of requiring them to operate unsafe patrol boats.

Christopher Briggs has sued the town for damages over injuries he claims were caused by being assigned last winter to a boat with a deck that was slippery, lacked handholds and safety rails, and was unseaworthy.

Joseph DiMiceli last week filed a complaint with the employee union, CSEA Local 881, contending that four patrol craft have more horsepower than recommended by manufacturers and/or are in poor condition. Manufacturers set horsepower limits to avoid having a boat become too fast or too heavy for its design, making it unstable and subject to capsizing.

Town spokesman James Moriarity said both actions are "the subject of litigation so we're not going to comment."

Briggs' suit was filed June 25 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Brooklyn. It states that because of "the unsafe and unseaworthy condition of the vessel" Briggs sustained tears in the cartilage in the shoulder joint and in the rotator cuff and unspecified internal injuries that required surgery and will require future medical care.

A bay constable since 2009, Briggs on Jan. 19 was assigned to Patrol Boat 7, which the town says is a 1994 Boston Whaler 22-foot skiff powered by a 250-hp. outboard engine.

Briggs slipped and fell overboard around 4 p.m., after the boat had broken down and was being towed by a Nassau County police boat, according to Briggs' attorney, Timothy Schweitzer of Manhattan. Briggs was able to grab a rail near the waterline and hold on as he was dragged through the water until rescued by a fellow crew member, Schweitzer said.

Town public safety commissioner Justin McCaffrey said Briggs, who lives in Oyster Bay hamlet, returned to work July 5.

In his complaint, DiMiceli, a bay constable since 1988, said Patrol Boat 1 is rated for up to 400 hp. but has outboard motors totaling 500 hp, the hull is saturated with water, and its GPS and radar don't work.

Patrol Boat 3 is rated for 175 hp. but has 250, its hull is saturated with water, the deck is rotted and cracking, and the boat lists 20 degrees toward its left, DiMiceli said.

Patrol Boat 6, DiMiceli said, is rated for 90 hp. but has 130. Patrol Boat 7 is rated for 240 hp. but has 250, he said, adding it lists 20 degrees to its right and its hull is saturated with water.

Patrol Boat 8 has a gantry crane that hasn't received required annual state inspections, DiMiceli said, and the town has not provided safety equipment for employees who use the crane.

DiMiceli said he could not comment about his complaint on advice of his attorney. CSEA Local 881 president Robert Rauff said he could not comment until he had seen the document.

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