All recreational motorboats should be required to display passenger limits, a lawmaker said Sunday, pressing the Coast Guard to take action after three children died when a yacht carrying 27 people capsized July 4.
"In the memory of the children we lost on that awful day, we can take some simple steps to educate and warn boat owners and their passengers how many people a vessel can safely handle," U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said, with relatives of one of the slain children echoing his call.
The children and two dozen other people were on a 34-foot-long motor yacht to watch Independence Day fireworks off Long Island when the boat overturned and sank. Victoria Gaines, 7; David Aureliano, 12, and his cousin, Harlie Treanor, 11, were trapped in the cabin and died.
Authorities are investigating whether overcrowding, a mechanical problem, weather conditions or other factors played a part in the capsizing. Safety experts have said the boat was overcrowded, but the skipper has blamed the tragedy on a sudden wave.
The vessel, the Kandi Won, was raised Wednesday from the bottom of Oyster Bay and taken to a marina for a preliminary inspection.
While it's as yet unclear what made the boat tip over, Schumer said the tragedy raised questions about capacity limits that warrant action.
Under a 1971 federal law, engine-powered boats 20 feet long or smaller generally must display a plate showing their maximum passenger count and weight load. Schumer is urging the same for larger boats.
"It doesn't make much sense that we require capacity limits be posted for mostly everything from ballrooms to classrooms, and boats under 20 feet in size, but not recreational vessels over 20 feet," Schumer said. He also feels the current rules covering smaller vessels don't require the limits to be posted prominently enough.
The Coast Guard has authority to expand the requirement without a change in the underlying law, Schumer said. He said he was looking to the Coast Guard as a quicker solution than trying to overhaul legislation.
A message left for the Coast Guard wasn't immediately returned Sunday.
Paul Gaines, Victoria's father, said the proposal "would be a huge step forward."
"I want nothing more than some good to come of this," he said, his voice breaking, at a news conference with Schumer.
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