Less than 48 hours after a 34-foot powerboat capsized on Long Island Sound off Oyster Bay, N.Y., with 27 people on board, investigators are trying to determine the cause of the accident, which resulted in the deaths of three children.
Nassau County (N.Y.) Police reportedly are considering several factors: overloading, wakes from other boats that had gathered for Fourth of July fireworks, and a storm cell that rolled over the area at the time, according to news reports.
“There was two lightning bolts,” Salvatore Aureliano, who was skippering the 1984 Silverton convertible, told local cable channel News 12. “Then the next thing I know, we were turning. And we just kept turning. And everybody was in the water. Chaos.”
Aureliano — whose brother-in-law owns the boat — was described by his family as an experienced boater with more than 25 years on the water, according to a report by The New York Times. The owner was reportedly on the boat, but Aureliano was at the helm because of his experience, according to the report.
Investigators and salvors are planning to raise the boat, which is in 65 to 70 feet of water 3 miles off Oyster Bay, possibly as early as today, according to Fox News.
The Coast Guard and several local agencies rescued 24 people after the capsize. The three victims are identified by Nassau County Police as children ages 8, 11 and 12 — all Suffolk County residents.
The three children were found in the boat’s cabin, one shortly after the accident and the others around 3 a.m. Thursday morning, Det. Lt. John Azzata, chief of the Nassau police homicide squad, told Newsday.
Nassau Police Deputy Inspector Kenneth Lack said some but not all of the people on board were wearing life jackets, according to Newsday. Lack said alcohol is not believed to have been a factor.
The National Weather Service said a thunderstorm moved through the area of the accident at around 10:30 p.m., but winds never exceeded 10 to 15 mph, according to multiple news reports. The weather service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area from 10-10:30 p.m.
A boater who witnessed the capsize said he saw the Silverton turn, then tip over after it was hit by a wake.
“It was like in slow motion,” Sammy Balasso, of Oyster Bay, told a Newsday reporter during a telephone interview. “All of a sudden, a lot of bodies were in the water.”
Balasso is also quoted in a Fox News report: “A friend of mine was in my boat and shined a spotlight on them because their boat was getting close to us. Then we saw them take a sharp left and it flipped.”
Two 25-foot rescue boat crews from Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck, along with rescue teams from Nassau County Police Department, Oyster Bay Constable, TowBoatUS, and several local fire departments responded to the capsize. Initially, good Samaritan boaters pulled several of the victims from the water, according to an ABC News report.