Officials figuring out how to retrieve capsized N.Y. yacht that claimed three young lives
Two Nassau County police boats are stationed near the opening to the Long Island Sound in Lloyd Harbor, N.Y., on July 6, 2012. / AP Photo/Richard Drew
(CBSAP) OYSTER BAY, N.Y. - Long Island investigators are determining how to raise a capsized yacht where three suburban New York City children died and 24 other people were thrown into the water when their boat overturned during a Fourth of July trip.
The cause of the accident was unclear, but boat experts said too many people were on board. That combined with weather and a strong wave might have doomed the vessel, Candy 1. as it was steering toward land following the show.
Investigators are counting on gaining knowledge from survivors and the boat itself once it is brought up from 60 feet below the surface of Long Island Sound. CBS station WCBS in New York said that it has not yet been determined when crews can start retrieving the boat. Many factors have to be considered, including the positioning of the boat. The crews will most likely use cranes or airbags to lift the boat before pulling it to shore.
"Numerous challenges, depending where a boat goes down, you have currents, low visibility, you have all different kinds of debris," Mitch Kramer of North Shore Towing, who may help with the retrieval, said to WCBS. "Sometimes boats are sitting upside down, right side up, filled with mud."
James Mercante, lawyer for an insurance company who is representing the boat's owner, said it appeared that the boat might not get raised before Saturday. He said the expertise of the Coast Guard and the Navy was being tapped for the effort.
"Thirty-four foot boats shouldn't roll over, with or without people on it," he said.
He said he'd like to know if something mechanical was responsible, "if something gave way."
The boat was on it's way back from watching a privately-financed fireworks show when it overturned.
Officials have said they would be counting to see if there was enough life jackets on board, but Mercante lambasted reports that there were not enough life jackets on board the vessel. He noted that the three children who died were in the cabin, where no life vests were required.
"There were enough life jackets on board for every person on board and more, there were plenty of life jackets on board," he said. "The life jackets had nothing to do with this incident."
Nassau County Detective Lt. John Azzata said the cause remained under investigation but possibilities include the weather, overcrowding and a wake from another vessel. He said the area was busy with boaters watching the fireworks.
The boat's skipper, Sal Aureliano, has told TV's News12 Long Island that he saw two lightning bolts and then a wave suddenly hit the 34-foot boat off Oyster Bay, on the north shore of Long Island.
"It turned the boat around," he said, his voice cracking. "It just turned the boat. I didn't see it. It was dark. I didn't see it."
"The next thing I know, we're turning, and we just kept turning, and everybody was in the water. It was chaos," said Aureliano, who didn't answer the door to The Associated Press.
Killed were Aureliano's nephew David Aureliano, 12, and two girls, 11-year-old Harley Treanor and 8-year-old Victoria Gaines. No serious injuries were reported by the 24 other adult-and-children passengers who were rescued from the water, mostly by fellow boaters.
According to WCBS, Gaines' mother wrote on her Facebook page, "I simply do not know how to go on from here. My heart is destroyed as is the lives of our families." Her daughter would have turned 9 on Friday. The family has hired a lawyer, Michael Della.
"We're trying to figure out who, if anyone, is responsible," Della told WCBS. "That particular boat has a maximum occupancy of 10."
The Silverton yacht was built in 1984 but purchased recently. The yacht company filed for bankruptcy in April, and no one was available to say what the maximum number aboard should be.
The boat's owner is Kevin Treanor, Mercante said. There were 10 children aboard, and 17 adults, he said.
Safety experts said most boats have a manufacturer's plate that lists capacity by number of adults and by total weight. So theoretically, a boat could safely handle more passengers if some were children.
Glenn Grodski, a licensed boat captain in Amityville, N.Y., who does Long Island charter trips, boat handling instruction, and yacht transport, said the number of people on board would have made the boat more prone to capsizing than normal.
"From what I've heard, I'm thinking there were too many people on board and the center of gravity was too high," Grodski said. "A wave could've caught him and turned him around, and the next wave pushed him over. If there were a lot of people up on the bow when the wave hit, it would turn over much quicker."
Each Fourth of July, vessels crowd the Long Island Sound shoreline to watch public and private fireworks displays. When the shows end, the exodus can be the nautical equivalent of a highway traffic jam.
Scott Menzies, who said he positioned his 20-foot motor boat in the area to take in the celebration but did not see the accident, estimated there were at least 1,000 vessels on the water.
"It was pretty crazy," he said.
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