Three children died and another 24 people were pulled from the Long Island Sound after a yacht full of spectators watching Fourth of July fireworks capsized near Oyster Bay, Nassau County police said.
The bodies of David Aureliano, 12, Harley Treanor, 11, and Victoria Gaines, 8, were found in the cabin of the 34-foot (10-meter) Silverton vessel, said officer Maureen Roach, a spokeswoman for Nassau County police. All of the victims lived in Suffolk County. No other injuries were reported.
The yacht turned over at 10:10 p.m. off Bayville, between Center Island and Lloyd Neck. Police are investigating whether the incident was caused by another boat’s wake, weather or overcrowding, said James Imperiale, a police spokesman.
Jim Mercante, an attorney with Rubin, Fiorella & Friedman LLP in New York and a retired merchant marine captain, said he has been hired by an insurance company to represent the boat’s owner, Kevin Treanor. The relationship between the victim and the owner was unclear. Mercante declined to comment on behalf of his client.
A man identified by News12 Long Island as Sal Aureliano said he was the uncle of the boy killed and was operating the yacht, called Candi One. Aureliano said that he was taking the boat home after the fireworks when it was hit by a wave that turned the vessel, according to the report.
“The next thing I knew we were turning,” Aureliano told the local cable-television station. “We just kept turning and everybody was in the water. It was chaos.”
No charges are pending in connection with the sinking, Roach said.
Crews from Nassau County Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Oyster Bay police and fire departments responded to the sinking, Coast Guard Petty Officer Sondra Rivera said. Boaters in the area also assisted in the rescue, she said.
Police are investigating how many life jackets were aboard the craft, Imperiale said. The vessel remains at the site submerged in as much as 70 feet of water, he said. Police plan to attempt to salvage the craft tomorrow, Roach said.
“Everything is still under investigation right now,” Imperiale said. “Those are the things we’re looking at.”
Coast Guard rules require vessels to carry one personal flotation device per passenger, while state law calls for children under 12 to wear them at all times except when in a boat’s cabin, Imperiale said.
The Coast Guard doesn’t set maximum occupancy limits for yachts over 26 feet long, said Petty Officer Erik Swanson. Boaters should use “common sense” or an overloaded boat can become unsafe and difficult to handle, he said. Coast Guard crews often conduct random safety checks, and overcrowded boats are one of the things they look for, Swanson said.
“We do specifically look for overloaded vessels and to see if there are enough life jackets on board,” he said.
Bruce Lebens, a yacht broker and boat racer from East Norwich, said he saw emergency trucks responding to the scene as he and his son drove home from watching the fireworks from land on Center Island.
There were as many as 100 boats in the area, which may have contributed to a “cross-chop” or waves traveling in many directions as they all left simultaneously, Lebens said in a telephone interview. Even experienced captains can find navigating such conditions difficult, he said.
Lebens, who said he’s been involved in boating for almost six decades, said he spoke to several people involved in the local sailing community and said the yacht may have been at double the safe capacity for its size.
“If you’ve got 27 people on a 34-foot boat, you’re overloaded and the next question is whether there were enough life jackets,” he said. “What it sounds like is that the boat was overloaded, it was dark and there were a lot of boats right in that area.”