The yacht, a 34-foot 1984 Silverton sank last night at about 10:10 p.m., killing David Arelino, 12; Harley Treanor; 11 and Victoria Gaines, 8, according to the Nassau County Police Department, said The Wall Street Journal. Other boaters, the Coast Guard, and local fire departments, were able to save the 24 other passengers, Sondra Rivera, petty officer first class with the Coast Guard, told The Journal. The Coast Guard responded with two 25-foot rescue boats; 911 was immediately contacted.
The three children were found in the boat’s cabin. The first victim found was taken to Syosset Hospital in critical condition. Divers found two others in the cabin at about 3:00 a.m.; all three were pronounced dead at about 4 a.m., according to officials, said Newsday. “We lost three great kids,” Sal Aureliano, David’s uncle, told Newsday in a brief interview. “It’s painful. It’s … the worst day of my life” David was, “an amazing kid.” Candi Treanor, aunt of cousins Harley and David, told Newsday, “I was trying to pull them out. They were just beautiful, young and loving children.”
The accident followed local Independence Day fireworks; survivors were pulled from the water at about 11:00 p.m., said officials. The cause of the capsize is being investigated; however, early reports blame weather, overcrowding, or a massive wave from another boat’s wake, said MSNBC. Rescue operations were impeded by the number of people in the water—at some point, everyone on the boat was in the water—the time of night, and the number of boats celebrating the holiday.
The search for the three missing children continued overnight, Nassau County Deputy Inspector Kenneth Lack told The Journal. The boat party included family and friends; two people operated the yacht and there was no evidence of intoxication at the time of the accident, investigators said. The probe will look into if there were sufficient life jackets on the boat—a requirement—and if children under the age of 12 were wearing a life jacket outside of the cabin, another requirement.
That area of the Long island Sound was under a special marine warning; radar captured between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. revealed a severe thunderstorm, with winds up to 40 mph crossing Oyster Bay, said MSNBC. Coast Guard Petty Officer Anthony Kozak told MSNBC that the Silverton yacht was submerged about 60 feet under water three miles off the Oyster Bay coast off Lloyd Neck. The cabin cruiser capsized southwest of Sand Hole at the entrance to Oyster Bay and Cold Spring harbors, south of where the two meet in the Long Island Sound, officials told Newsday.
“The boat could have sunk for many reasons,” Detective Lieutenant John Azzata, chief of the Nassau police homicide squad, said in a news conference earlier today. The police want to arrange for salvage of the wreckage to determine if equipment failure was involved, wrote Newsday. “We are looking at the entire situation, including overcrowding,” said Jeffrey Moberly, bosun’s mate second class. Police did not immediately identify either of the boat’s operator, said Newsday.
Lack said that early indications were that the cabin cruiser capsized after being hit by the wake of another boat, which eyewitnesses confirmed. Azzata said the boat capsized in 21 feet of water, drifting more than a half mile before it sank in deeper water. One eyewitness said the Silverton turned right and was then hit by a wake that capsized the vessel. “It was like in slow motion,” Sammy Balasso of Oyster Bay, who was in his boat at the time, told Newsday in a telephone interview. “All of a sudden, a lot of bodies were in the water.” Balasso described the night as “pitch black.” He shone his 38-foot speedboat’s spotlight on the cabin cruiser and tossed all of his life jackets into the water, bringing 20 people on his boat. “Everybody was panicking,” Balasso said. “People were saying things like ‘Why?'” Some people were yelling for missing passengers and some were hanging on to the top of the capsized boat, he said. “I don’t think they wanted to leave whoever they were looking for,” he told Newsday; most passengers were children and young teenagers.
Frankie Barone, 15, Balasso’s nephew, said the waves nearly covered their speedboat; none of those who were pulled out of the water were wearing life vests; and “They were yelling, Victoria and David.”