By Connor Beach
The Suffolk Legislature approved Tuesday night a boating safety law that will require instructional vessels to have propeller guards installed.
The law, known as “Ryan’s Law,” is a legislative response to the death of 12-year-old Ryan John Weiss, who tragically died in last summer from injuries he suffered when he was entangled with a propeller during a boating lesson in Centerport Harbor on July 18, 2017.
Suffolk Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) sponsored the bill, which was co-sponsored by each of his 17 fellow legislators – a first in Suffolk history, according to Spencer.
The law is the first of its kind in the nation, Spencer said, and a result of a collaboration with the Weiss family, whom Spencer was in contact with after Ryan’s death.
“They were very brave and very open,” Spencer said. “I wanted to work with them to address anything that we could do to stop other families from having to go through a tragedy like this.”
Spencer said that thorough research led to a consensus among the U.S. Coast Guard, area yacht clubs and county officials that the installation of propeller guards on all instructional vessels was the most sensible solution.
“There’s nothing you can do to make everything completely safe… but the idea was that we could decrease the potential for these unexpected tragedies,” Spencer said.
The legislation states that “any vessel utilized to teach minors about marine navigation and safety in a formal setting, such as an instructional course conducted by a marina, yacht club or boating organization” is required to have a propeller guard when operating in Suffolk waterways.
A first-time fine of $250-$500 has been created. Convictions for all subsequent offenses can bring a fine of $750-$1,500 per offense.
State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-Northport) is hoping to enact a similar law at the state level next year. On Wednesday, Raia said he had introduced a propeller guard law this legislative session, but that the bill failed to gain traction in the senate.
“I’m grateful Suffolk County got it done. I hope Nassau County gets it done. And we will work on the rest of the state next year,” Raia said.
With the anniversary of the tragedy in Centerport approaching, Spencer said he feels the new law is a way to “honor Ryan’s legacy.”
“Hopefully his family can find some strength in having a law that is named after Ryan and that will do good,” Spencer said.
“Ryan’s Law” will go into effect 90 days after it is filed in the Office of the Secretary of State.