Police reveal new details about fatal boat accident, 16-year-old’s death called ‘a devastating loss’

The Greenwich Police Department's Marine Section is leading the investigation into Wednesday's fatal boat accident that claimed the life if a 16-year-old girl. — John Ferris Robben photo

The Greenwich Police Department’s Marine Section is leading the investigation into Wednesday’s fatal boat accident that claimed the life if a 16-year-old girl. — John Ferris Robben photo

The investigation is continuing into the boating accident that claimed the life of a 16-year-old Greenwich High School student on Wednesday afternoon.

Emily Fedorko, a rising junior at GHS, was killed on Wednesday while out with three female friends on Long Island Sound. According to the Greenwich Police Department, Emily and a friend were on an inner tube that was tethered to a recreational powerboat with a 200 horsepower engine in open water that was between one and two miles from the dock of Captain’s Harbor. The boat, which had the two other girls in it, was towing the inner tube when Emily and her friend became dislodged from it. Police say at this point the boat’s operator made a turn to try and retrieve them from the water and the boat collided with the two girls, causing both of them to come into contact with the boat’s propeller.

Police said at a Thursday press conference that Emily sustained a “significant” and fatal injury to her torso when this happened. The other girl was wounded and received a soft tissue injury on her left lower leg. However this injury is not considered to be life threatening and she is being treated at Stamford Hospital.  The two girls in the boat were taken to Greenwich Hospital on Wednesday for observation.

At the press conference, Chief of Police James Heavey said that this these are the preliminary findings and that the investigation is continuing. He confirmed that the 16-year-old girl driving the boat had received a safe boating certificate from the state, allowing her to legally operate it. Due to the early nature of the investigation, findings are not complete but there have been no initial signs of alcohol or drug use as any kind of a contributing factor.

“We are going to continue to investigate all the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident,” GPD Public Information Officer Lt. Kraig Gray said at the press conference. “The initial assessment is that this appears to be a very tragic accident.”

Lt. Gray said that the investigation is now focused on what caused the girls to become dislodged from the inner tube and why they were struck by the boat. There will be a full accident reconstruction done as part of the investigation which is being led by the GPD’s Marine Section with help from the state’s Environmental Conservation Police (ENCON).

The Greenwich Public Schools will be offering counseling, not just for students but “for the community to support those in need” after the accident. The three other girls involved in the accident are all Greenwich High School students who were in Emily’s class. Services are available today, Aug. 7, and tomorrow, Aug. 8, at both GHS and Eastern Middle School from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

People in need of those services are instructed to come to the main offices in the schools. District Director of Communications Kim Eves said that Judith Nedell, the district’s director of guidance, is also available via email at either [email protected] or [email protected] Additional services are expected to be made available in the future.

“We will continue to monitor the need for additional services in the weeks and months to come,” Ms. Eves said on Thursday morning.

Superintendent of Schools William McKersie has convened a district crisis intervention team to respond to this and issued a statement on Wednesday night.

“We are mourning the devastating loss of one of our Greenwich High School students, a rising junior, who was involved in a boating accident on the Long Island Sound,” Dr. McKersie said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this time of tragedy. There are few words that can express the deep compassion we feel for the family of the young girl that has died and for the three other girls involved in the accident. The Greenwich Public School community is ready to support the girls involved and their families in every way possible.”

Dr. McKersie also appeared at the press conference and called it a “devastating loss for the whole Greenwich community.” He said the girls were longtime friends and described Emily as someone who was loved by her teachers and fellow students.

“As the story unfolds about who this girl was the tragedy becomes even deeper,” Dr. McKersie said. “It’s an incredible loss.”

Dr. McKersie said 20 district counselors and psychologists were brought in to provide direct aid to the girls and their families. There is also support from local organizations like Kids In Crisis, Center for Hope, the Den for Grieving Kids and Family Centers.

“We are a compassionate community and this loss hits us all deeply,” Dr. McKersie said. “We want to be there for these families.”

At Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectman Peter Tesei spoke about the tragedy, appearing quite shaken by it as he called it “a profoundly sad morning for Greenwich.” The selectmen held a moment of silence at their meeting for Emily, her family and everyone else involved.

“Tragically Greenwich has lost one of its most promising young people due to a tragic boating accident,” Mr. Tesei said. “This is any family’s worst nightmare in terms of losing a young person. Certainly the circumstances surrounding the incident and the nature of it are even more emotionally disturbing. Our hearts go out to the family of the young woman who perished as well as to the families of the other individuals involved. As a community if we can send our collective support and prayers and thoughts to them they certainly can use them.”

Selectman Drew Marzullo, in his role as a paramedic for GEMS, had responded to the scene. He called the incident “truly as horrific as it gets” noting that this was something that would impact the three other girls as well as the families for the rest of their lives. And while he said this wasn’t the exact time to do it in the immediate wake of the tragedy, he added there should be a future discussion about licenses for boaters in town. Mr. Marzullo said he was concerned by current state regulations that allow people as young as 13-years-old to be licensed to drive a boat as long as they have received training and have a safe boating certificate.

Mr. Marzullo said he had spoken with State. Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151st), a former chairman of the town’s Board of Parks and Recreation, about potentially reviewing state regulations for this in the coming months. Mr. Camillo confirmed to the Post on Thursday that he would look into this and work with Mr. Marzullo and others on it.

The Post will have additional coverage of the tragedy in its Aug. 14 edition. Check Greenwich-post.com and Twitter.com/greenwichpost for updates.

 

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