Boating-safety bill in honor of Greenwich teen passes Senate

May 8, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Greenwich Time

HARTFORD — The Senate honored the memory of Emily Fedorko on Thursday, approving new legislation that would prohibit young teenage boaters from towing water skiers or tubers, while requiring the training of all boaters in proper towing techniques.

The legislation, which passed with little discussion, next heads to the House. It would prohibit children under 16 years of age from towing skiers or tubers and establish a safe water-skiing module in boating-safety courses.

Lawmakers said while the August 2014 death of the 16-year-old Greenwich girl remains under investigation, better education for boaters and overall safety awareness is crucial in what might become a model law for the entire country.

“It’s pretty amazing when you think that in the state of Connecticut right now, a 13-year-old can get into a boat with 900 horsepower and is 40 feet long and can tow 25 water skiers without any adult supervision,” said Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, who accompanied Emily’s parents, Joseph and Pam Fedorko, when they testified in favor of the bill before the General Assembly’s Environment Committee in February.

The bill would require those already in possession of safe-boating certificates to complete online instruction on proper towing.

“I think all of us in this chamber believe that we need to do everything possible to promote safe boating in this state,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., D-Guilford, co-chairman of the Environment Committee, where the bill originated.

Fedorko died on Aug. 6 after the motorboat pulling her and another teenager turned to pick them up and ran them over, the town’s first boating fatality in more than 20 years. The other teen was severely injured, but survived. Police said the boat’s teen operator was properly licensed at the time.

“It was a beautiful August summer afternoon last year when Emily Fedorko went out with some friends to enjoy tubing,” Frantz said, adding that the fatality “sent shock waves” through the region.

He praised Emily’s family for starting a foundation in her name.

“The sole purpose is to promote safety and promote education throughout the entire country and ultimately, maybe all of North America to make people more aware of the dangers of towing, how it’s critically important to have PFDs — personal flotation devices — on you at all times and to understand that towing can be very dangerous.”

Kennedy joined Frantz in praising the Fedorko family.

“Instead of wanting to forget about this terrible tragedy, they have focused their lives on promoting boating safety,” he said.

Sen. Clark Chapin, R-New Milford, ranking member of the Environment Committee, said that the bill was negotiated by a variety of parties, including the governor, the Marine Trades Association and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which would be required to develop the new regulations by Oct. 1.

Violators could be penalized between $60 and $250.