(Bloomberg) — Nassau County police plan to begin salvage efforts today on the boat full of Fourth of July fireworks spectators that capsized in Long Island Sound near Oyster Bay, killing three children trapped in the cabin.
Investigators are trying to determine whether the incident was caused by another boat’s wake, weather or overcrowding, said James Imperiale, a police spokesman. They are also looking into how many life jackets were aboard the craft and whether a mechanical failure contributed to the capsizing, he said.
“We’re not going to be able to look at any of that until we get that boat up,” Imperiale said today in a telephone interview. “Right now, it’s under 60 to 70 feet of water.”
The 34-foot (10-meter) Silverton vessel with 27 people aboard rolled over at 10:10 p.m. July 4 off Bayville, between Center Island and Lloyd Neck, about 35 miles northeast of Manhattan. While 24 people were rescued, the bodies of David Aureliano, 12, Harley Treanor, 11, and Victoria Gaines, 8, were found in the cabin, said Maureen Roach, an officer and a spokeswoman for Nassau County police.
Nassau County police are still in the planning stages of the salvage and may begin raising the boat as soon as today, Imperiale said. A police boat has been stationed above the wreck since the incident, he 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 vessels 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.
No charges are pending in connection with the sinking, Roach said yesterday.
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.
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 put on by the Dolans, the family that controls Cablevision Systems Corp., 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 yesterday. 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 vessel 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.
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.”
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