It’s here in all its glory — summer 2017. With the season comes all the things that make this time of year on the Island so terrific — along with the associated dangers, on land and on water.
Perhaps boating is at the top of the list of joys that can turn horribly bad.
New York State and the U.S. Coast Guard have reported that recreational boating incidents claimed the lives of 22 people in the state in 2016 — up from 16 statewide in 2015. Seven of those 22 deaths occurred on Long Island. In April of this year, Dr. Richard Melucci, an anesthesiologist at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, died in Long Island Sound after falling off his 25-foot boat.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary marked National Safe Boating Week May 20 to 26, using the occasion to promote the use of life jackets every time people step aboard boats and head out on the bay, ocean or Sound.
In a press release last month, the Auxiliary cited nationwide statistics: “Each year, on average, 700 people die in boating-related accidents …” The hard — and avoidable — truth followed: “… 8 out of 10 victims were not wearing a life jacket.”
Most of us who are on boats in the summer have probably seen vessels with far too many people aboard — in some cases including very young children. Recall the Fourth of July 2012 in Oyster Bay, when a 34-foot vessel loaded with 27 people out to watch the fireworks capsized, killing three children: a 12-year-old boy and two girls, ages 8 and 11. That should be a cautionary tale for anyone going out the evening of July 8 to see the fireworks from the water.
Overcrowding was later determined to be a factor in the boat’s overturning, and one person familiar with the boat said it could safely carry only eight passengers. On a night of celebration and fireworks, this boat carried more than three times that limit.
We count on Shelter Island Police Department’s marine patrols and bay constables to keep boaters safe, as officers on land do every day.
We are a small island surrounded by saltwater. You should enjoy the water if you live or vacation here.
You also have to respect the water, and be smart and safe on it.