Town Board Hears From Public on Boat Accident

Community members address tragedy that killed three children.

The Oyster Bay Town Board began their meeting Tuesday by holding a moment of silence for the three children killed in a tragic July 4th boating accident

They ended by hearing concerns about the accident from members of the public.

Officially, the town is not commenting about sinking of the 34-foor boat that tipped over following a fireworks show, according to spokeswoman Phyllis Barry. 

But Town Supervisor John Venditto did contribute some thoughts when the subject was brought up during the public comment section of the meeting.

The supervisor opened things up by asking those in attendance,  by asking for "a moment of silence for those three children that were lost in the recent boating accident at the end of the Fourth of July holiday, and also their family and friends and all those who are suffering terribly as a result of that tragedy."

When Venditto took questions from members of the public, two speakers addressed the accident.

One of them, Bill Fetzer of the North Oyster Baymen association, suggested the Town slow boat traffic down drastically on July 4th to avoid future accidents.

"If you were to make all of Cold Spring Harbor and Oyster Bay Harbor  a no-wake zone from 5 p.m. on the Fourth of July, until maybe 1 a.m., I think you might alleviate some of the wave action problems," he said.

Several observers have speculated that a large wave, or wake, might have been reponsible for the accident.  After the meeting, Fetzer said a no-wake zone would likely slow boat traffic down to about 5 mph or less.

Venditto did not rule out the idea, but said the time was not yet ripe to implement plans.

"The Town of Oyster Bay had a pretty active role in the rescue effort, and we're participating very actively in what's going on up there now, all in an effort to determine what happened," he said.

"I think that's where everyone's focus is. I think when we get more information on cause and affect, we can probably make a better assessment."

The Supervisor also heard from a bay constable, Christopher Briggs who urged the Town to form an emergency diving crew saying that they might have been able to search for underwater victims sooner, saying he was "losing sleep" over the accident.

"To go to Nassau county and wait two or two plus hours for a dive team or an hour and a hallf for the fire department is unacceptable," Briggs said. "We have the boats, we have the men. I'm a trained rescue diver"

Venditto once again responded that the facts were not in yet, telling Briggs, "there were a lot of maybes, mand might haves" in his satatement.

The Supervisor did comment on one possible theory that's been put fourth about the accident saying he recently got an up close look at a boat that was likely eight-feet larger than the boat in the accident.

"If [media] accounts are right, there was somewhere in the range of 20 to 30 people on this boat, 27 is the number I believe" Venditto said. "Assuuming the eyewitnesses were right...Wow.  The boat I saw was 42-feet. I'm not a boater, but I don't see how you could have more than maybe 10 people on it."

The Town Board meets again on Tuesday July 24.


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