Suffolk County New York has imposed legislation requiring boats used for instructing minors to be equipped with propeller guards.
The law, passed unanimously in June and signed late last week, states any vessel on Suffolk County waterways used to teach people under age 18 about marine navigation and safety in a formal setting such as an instructional course conducted by a marina, yacht club or boating organization must have a cage or encasement surrounding the propeller “to ensure the safety of students and to protect against accidental injury.”
Fines for first-time violators range between $250 and $500 and then climb to $750 to $1,500 for subsequent offenses.
The law was proposed and lobbied for by Kellie and Kevin Weiss, whose 12-year-old son, Ryan, was killed last year during a controlled capsizing lesson at the Centerport Yacht Club, where the bill signing was held. After being taken from the water in an inflatable Zodiac boat, Ryan fell overboard when the boat took off and the propeller fatally struck him, according to a report in New York Newsday.
Ian Milligan, commodore of the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs – which represents more than 4,000 recreational boating families in Huntington – said his club fully supported the law, adding his members had volunteered to install such propeller guards themselves.
Some pending amendments are in the works, Milligan said, that would address previous concerns from club members, such as clarifying what kinds of vessels and motors fell under this new law.
Milligan said they hoped the law would inspire similar legislation on the state level. “It’s unfortunate that this accident happened, but we’re hoping this law will help to encourage others to take these safety precautions... so they can have the benefit of this lesson without having to go through a tragedy,” Milligan said.