Sunken yacht not raised as funerals held for children

July 11, 2012 3:27:47 AM PDT
Family and friends gathered Tuesday to say goodbye to two young girls who died when a yacht capsized on the Fourth of July.

Seven-year-old Victoria Gaines, of Huntington, and 11-year-old Harlie Treanor of Huntington Station were laid to rest. They were trapped inside the 34-foot vessel when it flipped and sank following a fireworks ceremony in the waters of the Long Island Sound off Oyster Bay.

David Aureliano, of Kings Park, was laid to rest at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Northport Monday. Aureliano and Treanor were cousins.

Twenty-four others escaped the capsized vessel.

Meanwhile, FBI and Nassau County divers are contending with murky water conditions in a slow, deliberate effort to retrieve the yacht.

The Kandi Won is about 60 feet below the surface.

John Azzata, commander of the Nassau County homicide squad, says divers are making slow progress in securing the vessel before bringing it to the surface using large inflatable air bags.

Authorities describe this as a horribly difficult and tedius experience. Silt from the bottom of the sound, exacerbated by strong currents and the activitity of the divers themselves, has reduced visibility to less than a foot.

The stern of the boat and its engines are actually buried in mud.

Only two divers work at a time and they can work for only an hour at a time; it takes another 20 minutes to come back up so they can decompress.

The process will resume at 8:30 Wednesday morning.

Investigators are trying to determine if the boat was overcrowded. They also hope to learn if there were enough lifejackets. The operator has said a wave capsized the vessel as a storm approached.

"The examination of that vessel is a significant aspect of the investigation," Nassau County Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said. "The FBI is very well-equipped to survey that site."

Skrynecki said investigators were still trying to determine whether there were enough life jackets on the yacht. Every passenger was required to have a life jacket, although the children were not required to be wearing them while inside the vessel's cabin, where the three bodies were recovered.

Skrynecki noted Monday that authorities may never be able to learn the exact number of life jackets, because some may have floated away.

An attorney for the owner of a yacht insists that overcrowding was not a factor in the July 4th accident. He also said the 34-foot vessel was equipped with enough life jackets for all 27 passengers aboard the boat when it sank. James Mercante represents boat owner Kevin Treanor, whose daughter was one of three children who died.

The National Weather Service said a thunderstorm moved through the area about 20 minutes after the first 911 call and winds never exceeded 10 to 15 mph.

The boat's skipper, Sal Aureliano, has said in a television interview that he saw two lightning bolts and then a wave suddenly hit the yacht off Oyster Bay, on the north shore of Long Island.

"It turned the boat around," he said. "It just turned the boat. I didn't see it. It was dark. I didn't see it."

The Silverton yacht was built in 1984. The manufacturer has since gone out of business. Safety experts said most boats have manufacturer's plates that list capacity by number of adults and by total weight. So, theoretically, a boat could safely handle more passengers if some were children.

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