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State report: Boating fatalities rise in NY waters

FBI divers and Nassau County police used air

FBI divers and Nassau County police used air bags to raise the Kandi Won, which sank on the night of July 4, 2012, on July 11, 2012. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The number of people who died while boating in New York waters rose to 27 in 2014, ending a three-year decline in fatalities, according to a state report released Wednesday.

In 2013, there were 18 boating fatalities, according to the report by the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Deadly accidents increased despite a dip in the overall number of registered boats -- from 456,909 in 2013 to 449,489 last year.

That pushed the number of fatalities per 100,000 registered boats -- a common way of judging marine safety -- to 6.01, the highest ratio in more than a decade, according to the report. There were 3.94 fatalities per 100,000 boats in 2013.

"If we could just get people in life jackets," said Brian Kempf of the State Parks Marine Services Bureau.

Life jackets were not worn by nearly 74 percent of the boaters who drowned in New York waters from 2005 to 2014, the report said.

The number of registered boats has fallen every year since the 2008 recession. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 also dealt boating a blow by forcing people to divert cash to repair their homes.

In both Nassau and Suffolk counties, there were four boating fatalities last year. Each county had one fatality last year.

The report cited two fatalities in Nassau last year as examples of safety lapses:

An 80-year-old man suffered a fatal heart attack on Sept. 1 while being rescued from a sinking vessel near Long Creek. The motorboat had nine family members aboard, including two children, authorities said.

"It is suspected that the arrangement of the nine persons onboard contributed to the flooding," the report states.

A motorboat operator in Baldwin Bay on Aug. 10 failed to make sure all passengers had returned from swimming before starting the engine. The boat struck a man who was still in the water, causing fatal injuries.

Authorities charged the captain with vehicular manslaughter. He later pleaded guilty to operating a boat while impaired and other safety violations.

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