A yacht full of fireworks watchers capsized off New York's Long Island on the Fourth of July, killing three people and sending 24 others into the Long Island Sound, where many were rescued by fellow boaters, police said Thursday.
The three dead were recovered from the water near Oyster Bay after a long overnight search, said Nassau County Deputy Inspector Kenneth Lack. "Tragically three people were killed in this boating accident," he told reporters. He would not release the ages of the victims. Several media outlets reported that children were on board.
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.
He 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.
He said the operation took a long time because "at night in an area like this, it is very dangerous.
The quick response of nearby boaters probably saved lives.
"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 yacht 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 boater told Newsday he saw the yacht turn right and then tip over after it was hit by a wake. "It was like in slow motion," said Sammy Balasso of Oyster Bay. "All of a sudden, a lot of bodies were in the water."
His nephew, 15-year-old Frankie Barbone of Bayview, said the waves almost came up over the yacht.
Balasso said he put the spotlight of his 38-foot speedboat on the Silverton and then threw all the life jackets he had with him into the water. He said he rescued 20 people who were later taken to the shore in police boats.
"Everybody was panicking," Balasso said. "People were saying things like 'Why?'"
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press