Authorities recovered three bodies after a boat full of fireworks watchers capsized off New York's Long Island on the Fourth of July, sending 24 others into the Long Island Sound, where many were rescued by fellow boaters, police said Thursday.
Fox News confirmed that the three dead were children, ages 12, 11 and 8 years old. They were recovered from the water near Oyster Bay after an overnight search. No survivor suffered any injuries.
The bodies of 12-year-old boy David Aurelino, and two girls, 11-year-old Harley Treanor and 8-year-old Victoria Gaines, were recovered from the boat's cabin after a long overnight search in the waters near Oyster Bay. The remaining people onboard were a mix of adults and children.
"Tragically three people were killed in this boating accident," Kenneth Lack, an inspector from Nassau County, told reporters.
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Preliminary causes for the accident "could be a combination of the weather and a wake from another vessel," Lack said. He said investigators will be looking at possible overcrowding on the vessel.
Sal Aurelino, the boat's operator, told TV's News12 Long Island that he was taking the Candi One home when he saw two lightning bolts, and "a wave got us."
"It turned the boat around," he said, his voice cracking. "It just turned the boat. I didn't see it. It was dark. I didn't see it.
"The next thing I know, we're turning, and we just kept turning, and everybody was in the water. It was chaos," Aurelino said.
Newsday reported that up to 27 people were aboard the 34-foot Silverton to watch the fireworks. The boat is resting in 60-to70-feet of water and authorities are working on its recovery.
Carl Darenberg, a yacht dealer at Montauk Marine Basin, told FoxNews.com the boat’s captain was not using good judgment.
"The boat, at most, was probably carrying 10 life jackets, which right there is in Coast Guard safety violation," he said. "And the boat was clearly overburdened."
Darenberg, who worked in the yachting business for 50 years, theorized that the captain assumed a short trip off Oyster Bay would be safe, but he called the water in the Long Island Sound some of the most dangerous in the state.
"If you told me there were 10 people on board, I’d say that was pushing it," Darenberg said. "Twenty-seven is just hard to believe. They were probably scattered everywhere."
Authorites said the first body was found shortly after the 911 call came in at 10:10 p.m. on Wednesday, and the two others were found later inside the yacht. The operation took a long time because "at night in an area like this, it is very dangerous.
"It was a lot of people in the water," Lack said. "Most people were taken aboard other crafts very quickly."
The National Weather Service said a thunderstorm moved through the area of the boat accident at around 10:30 p.m., and winds never exceeded 10-15 mph.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Anthony Kozak said the Silverton was submerged.
Some survivors were taken to a yacht club.
Lack said some but not all passengers onboard the 34-foot boat had been wearing life jackets.
"We believe they were out looking at fireworks" he said.
A nearby boater, Sam Galasso, told The Post, "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.
"My friend screamed, 'You've got to help these people.' And I turned my boat and went toward them.
"Everyone in my boat did everything to get people out of the water," he said.
His nephew, Frankie Barbone, 15, said: "The weather was fine, and then all of a sudden it changed within minutes. It was hailing at one point, it started raining. There were a lot of waves.Then we both looked over and saw them hit the water."
"It was complete mayhem," Galasso added. "People started screaming."
Parents frantically swam around searching for their kids, some of whom were having trouble staying above the waves, Galasso told The Post.
None of the passengers were wearing a life jacket, said Barbone.
"We pulled 16 or 17 people out," he said.
"As it was sinking, the captain was standing on top, waving his hands. We threw out everything we had to them."
Fox News' Edmund DeMarche and the Associated Press contributed to this report