NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, families and marine patrols are pleading with boaters to leave the booze on shore.
This comes after a novice watercraft operator was charged with being drunk at the controls and injuring an 8-year-old child swimming at Jones Beach over the weekend.READ MORE: Police: Anthony DeJesus Charged With Operating Jet Ski While Impaired After Hitting 8-Year-Old Boy Off Jones Beach
Operation Dry Water, a national campaign to increase water awareness and the dangers of drunken boating, kicked off Tuesday on the Great South Bay.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reports, boat sales skyrocketed during the pandemic, and first-time novice boat buyers were much younger, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
“That, of course, brings along people who are less experienced … When you mix alcohol with that, it’s even more dangerous,” Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said.
Alcohol was cited as the leading cause of fatal boating accidents last year during the pandemic with the number of boating while intoxicated arrests climbing to nearly 200 across New York state.
“That’s definitely a worry of mine, is people drinking and then driving on their boat,” Great River boater Liz Talamo said.
“You just want to make sure you know what you’re doing and be respectful out there and just be smart,” Great River boater Gil Talamo said.
“It takes one person to ruin the fun for everybody,” boater Sean Egan said.READ MORE: Family Of Brianna Lieneck Urges Boat Owners To Stay Safe On The Water Over Memorial Day Weekend
“We’re new to boaters, but I took the boating safety course, just like they did,” boater Christina Talamo said.
“The issues on the water are really compounded by the proliferation of boat sales last year. There are a lot of new boat operators on the water,” acting Suffolk Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said. “Just because you can afford to buy a boat or rent a boat does not mean that you can safely operate a boat.”
Operators of all motorized watercraft must complete a state-approved boating safety course by 2025 as part of Brianna’s Law. Its passage was spearheaded by Gina Lieneck.
Since 2005, Lieneck has fought for boating safety in her daughter Brianna’s name.
“It was a simple day of going out with our family to have a family fun day. My girls, they got to go water tubing. We went to my brother’s house on Fire Island, and on our way home, tragedy struck, and three men on a boat came over the top of our boat and it hit my daughter,” Lieneck said.
Lieneck and her husband were critically injured, and their daughter Brianna was killed.
“I found out my daughter was killed in the accident and then I went into shock at that point,” Lieneck said.
“A common factor amongst all these tragedies is poor decision-making, and something that absolutely contributes to poor decision-making is the consumption of alcohol,” Cameron said.MORE NEWS: Boat Operators Must Now Take Mandatory Boating Safety Course Under Brianna’s Law
This holiday and beyond, there’s a push for stronger laws in Albany — revoke a license to drive a car if convicted of boating while drunk and make it a felony offense for intoxicated boating with children aboard.