Canal safety law advances in Senate; legislation now heads to Assembly for review

Published May 18, 2017 at 4:00pm

The state Senate passed “Aaron’s Law” Wednesday, legislation sponsored by Sen. David J. Valesky, D-53, Oneida, that requires ring life buoys be installed on every pier, wharf, lock and dock along the state Canal System.

Lifesaving and flotation devices are not currently available at these locations, according to a statement by the Oneida state senator.

Aaron Teater, 23, drowned at Sylvan Beach May 2, 2016. He had been fishing with his mother, Nancy, from the pier in the Erie Canal where it connects with Oneida Lake at Sylvan Beach.

Teater’s tackle box, which was filled with heirlooms given to him by his late grandfather, fell into the canal.

Teater dove into the canal to retrieve it, and icy cold water and a strong undercurrent pulled him away from the pier.

Teater was unable to pull himself alongside the pier. No rope or lifesaving devices were available, and Nancy Teater was forced to watch her son drown in the canal, Valesky’s announcement added.

The bill would require the Canal Corporation would also require installation of one ring life buoy near each external stairway leading to water. Each buoy would have at least 100 feet of line.

“No other family should experience the loss that the Teater family has endured, and this bill’s passage in the senate marks one step closer in passing this bill,” Valesky said.

Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, is sponsoring this bill in the state assembly and it has been referred to the assembly’s Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee.