Updated 05/24/2012 09:13 PM
National Boat Safety Week
In last July's horrific Tivoli boating accident that killed four young adults, simple precautions like wearing lifejackets and driving inside buoy lines could have saved lives. As boat season kicks off this Memorial Day, boaters are being reminded to take safety seriously. Our John Wagner has the story.
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HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y. -- Four died last summer off the Tivoli shore. The driver was drunk and none of them wore lifejackets.
"Drinking and driving, 4:30 in the morning, just total recklessness, it didn't have to happen," said Vince Kelder, manager of Kingston’s Hideaway Marina.
The two survivors of the Tivoli crash remain in court seeking damages for six figure medical bills, but they face an uphill battle as the boat owner only had $100,000 in coverage and the deceased driver had little to no assets.
"In the hospital for significant period of time with both neurological and orthopedic injuries that were considerable, however, at this point, they're both walking and beginning to enjoy life again. None of them are able to work at this time," said Joseph E. O’Connor, Esq.
The tragedy serves as a warning to others. While boating courses aren't required for adults, the Dutchess County Sheriff's office strongly recommends their free classes.
"It gives them that edge out there as far as knowing what equipment they need on board, knowing how to read nautical charts and understand the buoy system," said Dutchess County Sheriff’s Sergeant Shawn Castano.
The U.S. Coast Guard says last year, only 22 percent of boaters nationwide wore life jackets. And in 2010, out of 484 drowning victims, about 90 percent of them did not have a life jacket.
Years ago, a good friend of Vince Kelder's drowned in the Hudson. Now, he warns even responsible boaters to take precautions.
"The current in the river is tricky and you know, it’s nothing to play with. You should definitely have life jackets and you should always have a ring to throw to somebody, too, if they're swimming in the river,” Kelder said.
"To fight against the current will exhaust even a good swimmer, in seconds," said Dutchess County Sheriff’s Sergeant Michael Dampf.
Kelder believes deadly incidents like the one near Tivoli would be avoided if boaters followed more stringent road rules.
Kelder said, "There should be no drinking and driving a boat, texting and driving a boat, where you’re not paying attention and just common courtesy to other people while you're out there."