No criminal charges in deadly July 4 boat accident

January 18, 2013 5:05:21 AM PST
No criminal charges will be filed following an investigation into the fatal capsizing of a yacht off Long Island last summer that killed three children, a prosecutor said Thursday.

The 34-foot Silverton yacht had 17 adults and 10 children on board when it spilled into the waters of Oyster Bay and sank following a July 4 fireworks display. The large number of passengers led some maritime experts to suggest possible overcrowding as a cause for the accident.

In a statement, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said a police department investigation uncovered a unique combination of circumstances that led to the capsizing, but said the findings "cannot support criminal charges that require proof beyond reasonable doubt."

Rice noted the investigation uncovered "gaping holes in the maritime regulatory system and contributory design flaws in the vessel" and said her office would issue recommendations for policy changes at a later date. Federal and state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would mandate capacity limits on larger pleasure boats.

The U.S. Coast Guard sets capacity limits on boats 20 feet or smaller but says annual reviews of accident data has not found enough capsizing accidents involving boats 20 feet and longer to justify a rule requiring limits for them.

The children who died, ages 12, 11 and 7, drowned after becoming trapped inside the cabin of the yacht.

James Mercante, the attorney for the boat's owner, Kevin Treanor (whose 11 year-old daughter perished) insists the Kandi Won was not overcrowded.

He issued a statement Thursday on behalf of his client thanking the prosecutor and law enforcement. Mercante said Treanor "lost his 11-year-old daughter on the 4th of July, so his only solace in today's news is that he can continue to grieve somewhat in peace with his family.

"The memory of that tragic accident and of his daughter Harlie, nephew David Aureliano and friend Victoria Gaines will never be erased," the statement said.

The attorney for Sal Aureliano, who was operating the Kandi Won when it capsized, echoed Treanor's sentiments, saying he was hopeful those involved would be able to "piece their lives back together."

Aureliano said last summer that he saw two lightning bolts and then a wave suddenly hit the boat; Oyster Bay was crowded with vessels of various sizes all leaving the fireworks display at the same time, causing what some witnesses described as a traffic jam of boats on the water.

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

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