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Yacht club staff get trauma-response training after deadly accident

Amityville's Noah Bagdonas, 18, practices placing a tourniquet

Amityville's Noah Bagdonas, 18, practices placing a tourniquet on 19-year-old Sarah Ellis, also of Amityville, during a "Stop the Bleed" course at NYU Winthrop's Trauma Center Team in Mineola July 28, 2017. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Staff from several Long Island yacht clubs worked Friday to learn trauma-response skills in the wake of a deadly boating accident in Centerport earlier this month.

More than 20 young lifeguards and instructors from four sailing groups completed a trauma first aid course Friday morning at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, hoping to fill a gap they said could help prevent similar deaths.

Hospital officials said the two-hour course is typically given to personnel like police officers and firefighters. But the July 18 death of a 12-year-old boy, struck by a boat propeller during a Centerport sailing lesson, prompted them to open it up to lifeguards and yacht club staff.

“A lot of these instructors said, what would I do? It takes so long for 911 to arrive, what can I do?” said Dr. Richard Bagdonas, a Winthrop trauma surgeon and educator for Stop the Bleed, a national program that aims to educate community officials on the best practices to aid serious injuries. “There was a need that was recognized based on recent events.”

At Long Island yacht clubs, sailing lessons and pools are staffed by teens as young as 14, said Alicia Bagdonas, his wife. The Bagdonases have five children who have taught or currently teach sailing lessons at Unqua Corinthian Yacht Club in Amityville.

“It’s a horrible tragedy,” she said. “Everyone is being more vigilant,” she said.

The Bagdonases decided to use Richard’s expertise in trauma injuries to find a way to help. They reached out to their yacht club as well as several others to offer the Stop the Bleed course.

Friday’s event drew 21 sign-ups, with 10 from Unqua Corinthian, five from Cedarhurst Yacht Club in Lawrence, five from Narrasketuck Yacht Club in Amityville and one from MarineMax Long Island, hospital spokesman J. Edmund Keating said.

Students learned to call for help first and ask for a trauma first aid kit. They practiced packing deep wounds with gauze, applying pressure and putting tourniquets on patients to control bleeding.

Lifeguards and sailing instructors typically receive some training on how to help others — typically CPR and first aid — though more serious accidents and injuries still happen.

“There is an inherent risk in doing any water sport,” said Charlie Nobles, executive director of the Los Angeles-based American Sailing Association, which certifies sailing schools nationally, including some on Long Island. “All the instructors should be certified with CPR and be strong swimmers.”

Jane Wilkinson, commodore at Narrasketuck Yacht Club, said officials there reviewed their safety practices recently and were eager to send staff members to the trauma-response training.

“We didn’t even know a course like this existed,” she said, adding that the club had also recently purchased propeller guards.

Lifeguard Sarah Ellis, 19, of Amityville, said she didn’t hesitate to sign up for the course.

“It’s hands-on training that I wouldn’t have gotten from a CPR class,” said Ellis, who works at Unqua. “I lifeguard and I also baby-sit. Just having that skill in any of our jobs, it’s nice to have it in your arsenal.”

Organizers said they will evaluate the success of Friday’s training session and decide whether to hold more. “You could help save a life if you know what to do, if you’re prepared,” Alicia Bagdonas said. “Boating accidents happen all the time.”

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