The Nassau County police continues its investigation of the terrible July 4th incident where a 34-foot yacht overturned in Oyster Bay, killing three children. While no conclusions have been made, police said today that there probably weren't enough life jackets for the 27 passengers. It's NY State law that there should be one life jacket per passenger on the boat.
Harley Treanor, 11, and Victoria Gaines, 8, two of the three victims
The friends and relatives had piled into the 1984 Silverton 34' to see the fireworks display at Cablevision CEO James Dolan's waterfront estate. The boat's driver, Sal Aureliano, said that a wake hit them, "I didn't think a 34-footer would turn. It just bellied up. . The next thing I know ... everybody was in the water. Chaos."
Distress calls were made at around 10 p.m. and other boaters picked up passengers from the water. However, during the rescue effort, the boat was pushed around by a storm; from the NY Times:
As [diver Mitch] Kramer hit the water, he said, a rainstorm swept in, pushing the half-submerged boat around and making it impossible to squeeze through a hatch or yank open the cabin door.
“There were canvas covers and wedged doors, all kinds of debris and cushions,” he said. “Everything is difficult when a boat is upside-down and submerged.”
Just after the first girl was found, the boat, which had been drifting eastward, sank to the bottom, 60 feet beneath the surface. By then, rescuers knew there was little hope that the others would survive. Their bodies were later recovered by divers.
The three children—Harlie Treanor, 11; Victoria Gaines, 8; and David Aurelino, 12 (Harlie and David were cousins; Victoria was a family friend and would have turned 9 today)—were found in the cabin. Harlie and David's aunt said the kids were in the cabin, because they liked to play cards there, "Believe me, we tried to get in the boat for those kids ... It was just heartbreaking."
The boat was owned by Harlie's father, Kevin Treanor. Aureliano was apparently driving the boat because he was more experienced, but questions are being raised about whether the boat was over its capacity. Experts and experienced boaters tell Newsday that given Wednesday's stormy conditions, "putting 27 people on a 34-foot cabin cruiser leaves no margin for error."
"That's a lot of people," [Philip] Cappel [recreational safety administrator for the Coast Guard] said of the 27 onboard the Silverton. "But in calm weather, a boat that size, if it's loaded properly . . . shouldn't really be that big of a problem. Too many people up higher, on the main deck or up on the flying bridge, is going to cause a problem."
The stability of the boat is determined in part by its center of gravity, experts said. More weight higher on the boat makes it top heavy and more likely to roll over.
The manufacturer, Silverton Marine Corp. of Millville, N.J., was closed for the holiday week.
[Boating safety group spokesman Larry] Weiss said there is a formula for determining a safe capacity for a larger recreational boat. It's length times width divided by 15. He said that would probably allow 25 people on a 34-footer.
"So technically it might be possible capacity-wise, but that doesn't mean it's smart," he said.
Other witnesses felt the boat was overloaded, "We saw the (Silverton) boat earlier, not too far from us, and I had a thought that there’s a lot of people on that boat."
Harlie's mother Joy Ambrosio wrote on Facebook, “My child was on that boat and was one of the ones that died and the wake came over the boat and it just tipped. So please since you were not there and don’t know what really happened, refrain [f]rom saying things. I lost my 12-year-old last night and two others lost [their] kids respect us all please."