OYSTER BAY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Investigators are trying to determine what caused a yacht to capsize near Oyster Bay late Wednesday night, claiming the lives of three children.
The bodies of 11-year-old Harlie Treanor, 8-year-old Victoria Gaines and 12-year-old David Aureliano were pulled from the vessel’s cabin, police said. All three were from Suffolk County.
“I just couldn’t believe it. I was so upset,” Sydni Bosley, a friend of Gainess’, told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider on Thursday night.
Gaines’ mother expressed sorrow on her Facebook page saying: “I simply do not know how to go on from here. My heart is destroyed as is the lives of our families.”
“It’s a tragedy why this would happen to them. Why God would do this to them is absolutely amazing,” family friend Jim Oliva said.
The victims were among 27 people onboard a 34-foot Silverton yacht called “Candi 1” when it tipped over just after 10 p.m between Center Island and Lloyd’s Neck in Cold Spring Harbor Bay, authorities said.
The passengers were on their way back from the privately financed Dolan family fireworks show.
Sal Aureliano, the uncle of the drowned 12-year-old, was at the helm of the ship.
“The boat just started to turn — it was an accident,” he told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
Through a closed-door of his Huntington home, Sal Aureliano told Gusoff there was no obvious wake, collision or storm overhead. He said the boat just started to turn over.
“There were two boats on either side of me. That was it,” he said.
Earlier, Auerliano told News 12 Long Island that the boat was hit by a rogue wave.
“We’re coming home, and a wave got us. It turned the boat around. It just turned the boat around,” he said. “I didn’t see it. It was dark. I didn’t see it. It just happened.”
He went on to tell News 12, “There were two lightning bolts. I told my nephew who was in front ‘Rocco, did you see that?’ He goes ‘Yeah, uncle Sal,'” Aureliano said. “And then the next thing I know we were turning, and we just kept turning. And everybody was in the water and… chaos.”
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports
Fellow boaters helped rescue some of the other 24 passengers from the water and brought them to shore where they were taken to the hospital.
“I’m just thinking of those poor people that lost their children, and we did all we could,” rescuer Maria Galasso told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan exclusively. “We pulled everybody out. We had everybody on our boat. And we did all we could. But those children were trapped in the cabin.”
“It was a lot of people in the water. It was a tremendous response by multiple agencies,” said Inspector Kenneth Lack of the Nassau County Police Department.
The boat initially went down in about 21 feet of water, but then drifted and then ultimately sank in about 60 feet of water, officials said.
Galasso, her family and guests saw the Candy 1 swerve, hit a wake and begin to go down.
“We saw it driving and saw it make this sharp turn and apparently wasn’t anything to do with weather,” Galasso told McLogan. “It hadn’t started raining at that time, all the boats had started leaving the harbor. [It took] a sharp turn and slowly capsized. All I know is this poor woman, screaming her daughter’s name. I didn’t want to wake up to hear the news this morning, and I wanted to hear they were OK, but they weren’t.”
A SCUBA diver from a nearby fire company was able to get to one of the victims quickly, but it was several hours before the other two were found inside the boat’s cabin.
Mitch Kramer pilots a tow and rescue boat out of Oyster Bay and was the first diver on the scene. He told McLogan he heard the S.O.S. call from the Galassos.
“We got hit with the storm shortly after I arrived. I was actually diving during the storm — I stayed on the scene the entire night … the kids didn’t make it, so there’s not much to feel good about.”
WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reports
Dark and murky conditions along with cumbersome dive gear made the search and rescue efforts challenging, police said.
“First, they have to find their way into the cabin. Once they get in, they have to find their way out,” said Det. John Azzata of the Nassau County Police Department Homicide Squad. “The boat is sinking and drifting the whole time, so you can imagine.”
Investigators said there are a number of factors that may have contributed to the boat’s capsizing.
“It could be a combination of weather, we had some severe weather pass through this evening,” Inspector Lack said. “It could be there was a tremendous amount of boats from the Fourth of July, could have been a wake from another vessel. That’s all under investigation right now.”
Azzata said investigators are also looking into whether overcrowding on the boat may have played a role. Seasoned boaters in Oyster Bay speculate there were simply too many on board, Gusoff reported.
“It could be overcrowding. It could be a mechanical malfunction. It could be a wake created by another boat, or there was a weather condition last evening that suddenly erupted,” Azzata said.
He said the boat had two operators and said alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the accident.
“There is no evidence or suspicion of any type of intoxicants being utilized,” Azzata said.
Officials are also trying to determine how many life jackets were on board the vessel. Only some of 27 passengers were wearing life preservers, officials said.
“It is a requirement that on a boat, if you have five people on the boat, you need five jackets,” said Azzata. “So if you have 27 people, you have 27 life jackets. That’s for all people on the boat.”
By law, children ages 12 and under are not required to wear life jackets if they are inside the cabin, which the three victims were.
Crews were working Thursday to recover the yacht from the water. It lies about 60 feet below the surface. It may be raised Friday, McLogan reported.
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