Regulations proposed requiring propeller guards on boats used to instruct children: New York

An 18 July 2017 Centerport Yacht Club propeller accident claimed the life of 12 year-old Ryan Weiss. Three boys learning how to sail were with a sailboat that had been capsized on purpose as a training exercise. One of the boys, Ryan Weiss, was picked up by a RIB piloted by an 18 year old sailing instructor. As the RIB accelerated to bring Ryan to shore, Ryan fell overboard and was fatally struck by the propeller.

Following the accident, many U.S. sailing/yachting facilities providing sailing instruction to youth quickly began reviewing their previous decisions not to use propeller guard. Propeller guards are already widely used in Australian youth sailing programs.

For any wondering why propeller guards are needed with a sailboat, the guards are used with coaching boats, safety boats, chase boats, referee boats, media boats, and other boats associated with youth sailing instruction and youth sailing competitions.

In response to the Centerport Yacht Club accident, New York Assemblyman Andrew Raia, Republican from East Northport and an avid boater from the 12th District, is proposing a state law in New York requiring propeller guards on all vessels used to instruct children, per a 28 August 2017 CBSNY article. The article also includes a great video.

New York Assemblyman Raia holding Propeller Guard Press Conference image clipped from CBSNY image

New York Assemblyman Raia holding Propeller Guard Press Conference
image clipped from CBSNY image

Another legislator, Dr. William Spencer, the Ryan Weiss as a fellow member of Centerport Yach Club. Dr. Spencer is drafting a similar law for Suffolk County.

Per News12, Northport Mayor George Doll, a commercial fisherman, has teamed up with state and county legislators for the regulation.

The CBSNY article notes the boating industry has long opposed propeller guards “arguing they don’t work and could even suck victims in.” We suspect the “suck victims in” comment actually refers to the boating industry’s frequent reference to the potential for people to be entrapped in propeller guards.

In response to the industry’s comments on entrapment in propeller guards we present a lengthy list of people entrapped in open boat propellers. If entrapment was their real concern seems like they would not be using open propellers.

As to objections to using guards, the CBSNY article also notes some boaters consider propeller guards an unnecessary mandate that slows speed (reduces top speeds).

The article quotes recent U.S. Coast Guard 2016 U.S. propeller accident data of 171 propeller accidents, resulting in 175 injuries and 24 deaths. We add that while they identified the correct USCG statistics, many accidents go unreported, and some propeller accidents that are reported are not reported as being propeller accidents.

Ryan Weiss’s mother told CBSNY “her pain is still too raw for her to speak publicly but she fully supports a propeller guard law and will lobby for it to save other lives.”

The article noted propeller guards typically cost from $100 to $400.

In the CBSNY video, NY Assemblyman Raia speaking of the boating industry said, “Its an industry that all to often worries about the bottom line.”

Other reports indicate there are several versions of the proposed law, some of which allow tax credits for the purchase of propeller guards for use with youth instruction.

Assemblyman Raia hopes the legislation is passed by next summer.

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