Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

June 25, 2009

For Release: Immediate
Press Contact:
Eileen Larrabee
Dan Keefe

State Park Police on Lookout for Intoxicated Boaters

Terrifying incident at the Danger Zone atop Niagara Falls as Operation Dry Water Gets Underway

New York State Park Police will be on the lookout for intoxicated boaters across New York as part of Operation Dry Water, taking place during the weekend of June 26-28, 2009. Marine law enforcement units from state, county and local law enforcement agencies, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the U.S. Coast Guard are joining together in an intensified effort to detect intoxicated boaters and enforce Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) laws.

"Over 20 percent of boating-related fatalities each year result from alcohol use - and it's not just intoxicated boaters whose lives are endangered," said Richard O'Donnell, Director of Law Enforcement for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

According to O'Donnell, earlier this week, New York State Park Police marine patrol officers risked their own lives to rescue a male boater and female passenger whose vessel had entered the danger zone near the brink of Niagara Falls, near the eastern tip of Goat Island. The 38-year-old operator of the boat was arrested and charged with BWI.

"The only good news is an arrest is much preferable to the tragedy that could have come to the boaters or the park police officers who came to their rescue," he said.

"New York's incredible system of canals, lakes, rivers and coastline attracts countless boaters to our waterways for fun and recreation," State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said. "But it's important to remember that fun boating - for your family and friends as well as all other boaters on the water - begins with safe boating. We strongly urge all boaters to practice responsible and safe boating, which includes avoiding the use of alcohol while operating a boat or personal watercraft."

O'Donnell noted that New York State Park Police personnel on the waterways from Long Island to Thousand Islands and Niagara to the Hudson River as well as officers on shore at marinas and boat launching ramps will be on the lookout for intoxicated boaters. Officers will be conducting BWI focused enforcement, saturation patrols, chemical (breath) tests, checkpoints and educational efforts.

Operating a recreational vessel with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08% or higher is against New York State law and federal law. Impaired boaters found to be boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs can expect penalties to be severe. They may include fines, jail, and loss of boating privileges.

All boaters should designate a sober, qualified vessel operator - a "designated operator." Alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion - "stressors" common to the boating environment - intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications. Alcohol use is dangerous for passengers, as well. Intoxicated passengers can more easily slip, fall overboard or suffer other accidents.

For information about boating safety and marine recreation in New York State, visit or call 518-474-0445.