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Editorial: Fight is on to stop deadly drunken boating

A 1967 38-foot Hatteras, at the Suffolk County

A 1967 38-foot Hatteras, at the Suffolk County police marine bureau in Great River Friday. The boat was involved in a fatal boating while intoxicated crash under the Robert Moses Main span bridge in the Great South Bay on June. 23, that killed Christopher Mannino, 39, of West Islip. (August 31, 2012) Photo Credit: James Carbone

Boaters who pilot their crafts while intoxicated should be punished as severely as drunken drivers. And boaters who pilot their crafts while intoxicated and cause the deaths of other people need to be punished just as severely as drunken drivers who take a life.

This hasn't been the case in the past, but two avenues are being pursued that could change that.

In the courtroom, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has charged Brian Andreski of Dix Hills with aggravated vehicular homicide in the death of Christopher Mannino of West Islip. Authorities say Andreski was drunk and had cocaine in his system when he ran his boat into Mannino's on June 23 on the Great South Bay.

In Albany, state Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) soon will introduce legislation to stiffen penalties for boating while intoxicated and attendant crimes, as well as for snowmobiling while intoxicated. For the most part, Fuschillo's proposal would cause BWI laws and penalties to mirror those for DWI.

Spota's aggressive effort is noteworthy, although he acknowledges the courts may find it a stretch to apply the vehicular homicide statute to this case. Trying the strategy, though, is low risk because Andreski faces other charges as well.

Fuschillo's play is the one more likely to bring changes in penalties and behavior, and it deserves the support of his fellow legislators, the governor and the public.

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