The parents of a 7-year-old girl killed in a July 4th boating accident off Long Island made an emotional appeal Wednesday for mandatory training for all boaters, capacity limits and other changes during a New York state Senate committee hearing.
"I just want to do everything I can to prevent this from ever happening again," a tearful Paul Gaines told reporters after the hearing as he held a framed photograph of his daughter, Victoria Gaines. "I cannot stand the thought of this loss of my daughter's life being in vain."
Michael Della, an attorney for Lisa and Paul Gaines read a brief statement on their behalf at the start of the hearing as they sat on either side of him. They are calling for mandatory safety training for all New York boaters, capacity limits on all recreational vessels, and procedures established whenever there is a large gathering of vessels at events like fireworks displays to prevent maritime traffic jams and other possible confusion.
Lisa Gaines, who also held a photograph of the child who would have turned 8 two days after the accident, did not speak. She was aboard the 34-foot yacht with Victoria and her son when the boat capsized following a fireworks display in the waters off of Oyster Bay shortly after 10 p.m. Victoria and two other children — ages 12 and 11 — who were in the boat's cabin died. Twenty four others, including seven other children, survived.
Boating experts have suggested that overcrowding may have been a cause for the accident, but a spokesman for the Nassau County Police Department said Wednesday that detectives have yet to conclude their investigation. No charges have been filed. The Coast Guard currently requires capacity limits to be posted on vessels 20 feet in length or less, so the 34-foot Kandi Won would not have been subject to any limit on the number of passengers.
The operator has said a large wave may have been the cause, and that he had seen lighting strikes in the distance shortly before the accident.
State Sen. Carl Marcellino, who chaired the hearing, said his panel has yet to commit to any legislation but convened the hearing to elicit testimony on suggested changes. He noted that in New York, a boating safety course is only mandatory for those younger than 18, or anyone operating a personal watercraft.
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