In June of 2012, Bryan Johnson, a 26-year-old from Westchester County drowned to death in the waters off City Island in a boating prank gone wrong.
Police said Johnson jumped off the boat and went for a swim, but the boat pulled away without him. When his friends returned they could not find him. Johnson’s body was found several days later.
This horrific tragedy inspired legislation in Johnson’s memory, which was spearheaded by his family. Working with them and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, we passed a law in New York State requiring people born after 1996 take an 8 hour boating safety course. I believe if one of Johnson’s friends on the boat had taken this course, then he may still be here today. The U.S. Coast Guard found in 2017, 81 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction, as compared to 14 percent who took a course.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, each year hundreds of lives are lost, thousands are injured, and millions of dollars of property damage occurs because of preventable recreational boating accidents. The U.S. Coast Guard reported 4,291 boating accidents in 2017, and the leading cause of fatalities were people not wearing a life-jacket and ultimately drowning. Another major factor contributing to deadly accidents, alcohol use. Alcohol accounted for 19 percent of deaths on the water in 2017, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Boating safety is important because inexperienced boaters do not only face dangers on the waters, they can easily become a danger to others.
It’s currently not required under state law for anyone born before 1996 to take a boating safety course, but with summer upon us, I would encourage everyone to take boating education seriously and consider taking the course.
For more information about how to sign up for a boating safety course, please contact my office at 845-623-3627.