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22 died in NY recreational boating accidents in 2016, report says

Suffolk County police in the Port Jefferson Harbor

Suffolk County police in the Port Jefferson Harbor on Tuesday Oct. 4, 2016, where a body was found after a boat, above, capsized about a mile out from the harbor. Credit: James Carbone

Recreational boating accidents last year claimed the lives of 22 people in New York, including seven on Long Island, according to a U.S. Coast Guard report and state data.

The deaths — up from 16 statewide in 2015 — mirror a national trend showing an increase in boating-related fatalities, the Coast Guard report said.

Last year was the most lethal for New York boaters since 2014 when 27 died, the Coast Guard said.

Nationally, there were 701 deaths reported, up from 626 in 2015 and the most since 2001, when there were 758 deaths.

Experts said lower gas prices and a stronger economy have boosted recreational boating.

But some well-known hazards, such as alcohol, not wearing a life jacket and inattention, continue to exact a toll on the water, they said.

“It appears to be things that are in the control of the operator but, sadly, it doesn’t appear our operators are in control,” said Craig Scholten of the American Boat & Yacht Council, which develops safety standards for recreational boats.

In Suffolk County, five boaters died in accidents last year: three in open motorboats, one on a kayak and another on a paddleboard, according to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. In Nassau, two people died in accidents involving open motorboats.

Alcohol was the top “known contributing factor” in 15 percent of U.S. deaths, the Coast Guard said. In cases in which the cause of death was determined, 80 percent of the boaters drowned, and 83 percent of them were not wearing life jackets.

There is at least one bright spot: Only 13 percent of the 2016 deaths nationwide involved people who had obtained a federally approved boating safety education certificate, the Coast Guard said. Since 2014, New York has required all 18-year-olds to complete such a course to operate a motorboat.

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