Three children died after a yacht full of Fourth of July fireworks spectators capsized in Long Island Sound near Oyster Bay, according to Nassau County police.
While 24 people were rescued, 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 Maureen Roach, an officer and a spokeswoman for Nassau County police. Raising the craft may begin today as an investigation into the sinking continues, Roach said.
The yacht rolled over at 10:10 p.m. July 4 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, a lawyer with Rubin, Fiorella & Friedman LLP in New York and a retired merchant marine captain, said he has been hired by an insurer to represent the boat’s owner, Kevin Treanor. His relationship to Harley Treanor wasn’t clear. Mercante declined further comment.
Treanor was a “very recent” member of the Harbor Boating Club and doesn’t dock his yacht there, Commodore Jerry Nigro said in an interview at the marina in Huntington, a New York suburb. He called the sinking an “unfortunate tragedy.”
A man identified by News12 Long Island as Sal Aureliano said he was the uncle of David Aureliano 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 in an interview that aired yesterday. “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 rescuing passengers, she said.
Police are investigating how many life jackets were aboard the craft, Imperiale said. The vessel remains submerged in as much as 70 feet of water, he said.
“Everything is still under investigation right now,” Imperiale said.
Coast Guard rules require vessels to carry one personal flotation device for each 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-capacity 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 try to spot, 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” of wakes 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 connected to 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,” Lebens said.
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