Police in Nassau County, N.Y., are trying to determine what caused a 34-foot powerboat with 27 people aboard to capsize Wednesday night on Long Island Sound following an Independence Day fireworks display, resulting in the deaths of three children.
The boat sank in 65 to 70 feet of water and police are preparing to have the boat raised to help determine what went wrong, according to news reports.
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The Coast Guard and several local agencies rescued 24 people after the 34-foot Silverton capsized around 10 p.m. 3 miles off Oyster Bay, N.Y., on the north shore of Long Island. Three people were reported dead, 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. this 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 the cause of the capsize could be a combination of weather, a wake from another vessel and possible overcrowding. 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 NWS had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area from 10 o’clock to 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.
Police said the 1984 Silverton capsized in about 20 feet of water but drifted southeast and was sitting in about 60 feet of water.