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Yacht capsizes off the coast of Long Island, killing 3 children

July 05, 2012|By Tina Susman

NEW YORK -- Investigators were trying to determine Thursday if weather, overcrowding or another boat's wake caused a yacht packed with people enjoying the Independence Day holiday to capsize off Long Island after a fireworks display, killing three children.  

Kenneth Lack of the Nassau County police told reporters early Thursday that two of the dead were found inside the cabin of the 34-foot yacht, which remained submerged after Wednesday night's accident. One of the dead was pulled from the water late Wednesday.

The dead ranged in age from 8 to 12; it was not immediately clear if they had been wearing life vests. Twenty-four others aboard the yacht were rescued.

Police said the boat tipped over in Oyster Bay about 10 p.m., sinking in 20 feet of water. By Thursday, authorities said, currents had pulled it farther out to sea, into water about 60 feet deep.

The accident occurred as hundreds of thousands of people tried to escape a relentless heat wave by heading out on boats to watch the fireworks displays that lit up the steaming skies around the New York area Wednesday night. Temperatures were in the high 80s, with high humidity, late into the night. Thunderstorms were reported off the coast, raising the possibility the boat could have been caught in a squall.

The New York Post quoted one witness, boater Sam Galasso, as saying the Silverton yacht was headed toward his speedboat when it made a sudden left turn and flipped over.

"My friend screamed, 'You’ve got to help these people.' And I turned my boat and went toward them," he told the Post. "Everyone in my boat did everything to get people out of the water.”

Other boaters threw life vests into the water as calls to 911 brought out emergency crews. Nassau County police spokesman Kenneth Lack said the rescue operation was slowed because of darkness. "At night in an area like this, it is very dangerous," he said. "It was a lot of people in the water."

The first victim was found shortly after rescue workers arrived on the scene late Wednesday, officials said. After battling murky waters and the current, they found the other two victims early Thursday.

None of the other 24 people on the boat suffered serious injuries.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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