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Push For Enhanced Boat Propeller Safety Measures In Wake Of Deadly Accident

NORTHPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A push for new boating safety for anyone who swims or comes anywhere near a boat propeller comes after a tragic death at a sailing camp last month.

We teach our children how to swim and school them in water safety, but seldom do we give much thought to one danger under the water.

The churning steel blades of a boat motor kill and maim boat passengers, swimmers, and water skiers every year.

"It's an industry that all too often worries about the bottom line," State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-12th) said in a Monday press conference. "The bottom line right now is saving lives."

Raia -- an avid boater himself -- is proposing a New York state law that would require propeller guards on all vessels used to instruct children.

"The propeller spins in here and heaven forbid you fall, it's not going to hit you in the chest and kill you which is what happened to Ryan," Raia tells CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

12-year-old Ryan Weiss enrolled in junior sailing camp, practicing a capsizing drill in July. As the dinghy he was in lunged forward, he fell overboard and became entangled in the motor.

He died from catastrophic injuries, and his heartbroken boating community says it's time for change.

"It could have been prevented if they had a shroud," commercial fisherman George Doll said. "It's time."

A shroud -- or cage -- encases the sharp exposed blades. Legislator Dr. William Spencer knew Ryan as a fellow member of the Centerport Yacht Club. He's now drafting a Suffolk County law.

"We don't want a knee-jerk reaction, we want legislation that makes sense and will really help with safety," Dr. Spencer said.

The marine industry has long opposed guards, arguing they don't work and could even suck victims in. Some boaters consider them an unnecessary mandate that slows speed.

But with 175 injuries last year combined with 24 deaths, lawmakers say this is a much needed first step.

"I'd rather be prudent and try to seek a solution that's a middle ground right now," State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said.

Ryan's mother tells CBS2 her pain is still too raw for her to speak publically but she fully supports a propeller guard law and will lobby for it to save other lives.

CBS2 reports propeller guards typically cost between $100 and $400.

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