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Gaughran: 'Very dangerous activity on our waterways' must be deterred

ALBANY — State legislators are proposing a law that would make a felony of boating while drunk when children are aboard, and another that would suspend an automobile driver’s license upon conviction of drunken boating.

“This is going to make it very clear,” said Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport) on Monday at an announcement in Huntington. “We have to deter this very dangerous activity on our waterways.”

Gaughran is working with the Assembly, which has similar bills. The legislators plan to craft a single measure that could be adopted in each chamber. The legislative session begins Jan. 1.

“Not a day goes by that I am out there that I don’t see somebody doing something stupid, most of which involved drinking,” said Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-Huntington).

The efforts stem in part from the tragedy after a July 4, 2012, fireworks show in Oyster Bay where a massive wake of passing power boats swamped another boat at night. Three children died.

The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office ruled out criminal charges, but found numerous concerns with the lack of training and regulations for large boats in the accident, which involved a 34-foot cabin cruiser carrying 27 passengers.

One of Gaughran’s bills would allow a judge to suspend a driver’s automobile license when convicted of boating while intoxicated. Another would create a Class E felony for operating the vessel while drunk if any passenger is 15 years old or younger. The Class E felony would be punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of as much as $5,000.

One of the Assembly bills co-sponsored by Assemb. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) would also allow for suspension of a driver’s license for boating while intoxicated.

Also this week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to sign Brianna’s Law. The bill passed in the State Legislature and sponsored by Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights) would require greater safety training for all boaters.

“We need to do whatever it takes to make sure that inadequate laws adopted in New York state be strengthened,” said Gina Lieneck at the Huntington event. Her daughter, Brianna, 11, was killed in a 2005 boat collision.

“We belong to the most horrible club,” said Lisa Gaines, whose daughter, Victoria, died in the 2012 crash in Oyster Bay.

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