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Officials, advocates call for stricter boating safety laws

Local officials and boating safety advocates gathered Saturday at a Bay Shore Marina restaurant to raise awareness about boating safety and call for stricter boating laws.

“We have zero tolerance for driving a vehicle while intoxicated. We should have zero tolerance for boating while intoxicated,” Gina Lieneck, one of the event organizers, said to a crowd of around 50 people at Nicky’s on the Bay.

Lieneck, 47, of Deer Park, said personal tragedy is what motivated her to organize the event. In 2005, her 11-year-old daughter was killed, and she and her husband were seriously injured, in a boating collision on the Great South Bay.

“My mission is to have all boat operators and boat owners licensed, and that sobriety testing is mandatory, so no family has to go through what my family has had to experience,” she said.

Richard Werner, the owner of Safe Boating America, a Bethpage company that provides such courses and helped organize the event Saturday, said only those born on or after May 1, 1996, are currently required to take such courses before operating a powerboat in New York State.

The event was attended by a number of town and county officials, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer.

Schaffer and others present called for mandatory safety training for would-be boaters.

“You need a license to drive a car, but just about anybody can walk into a showroom, purchase a boat and start operating it,” he said after the event. “That’s mind-boggling.”

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