Three children were found dead inside the cabin of a yacht that capsized off Long Island as it was returning from a fireworks show celebrating the Fourth of July, the authorities said Thursday.
The police in Nassau County, N.Y., said 24 of the 27 people onboard were rescued, but divers found the bodies of a boy and two girls inside the cabin of the boat, which sank near Oyster Bay. The children were identified as David Aurelino, 12, Harley Treanor, 11, and Victoria Gaines, 8. They all lived in neighboring Suffolk County.
The police were investigating whether the 34-foot yacht, one of more than 100 boats on the water after dark on the holiday, had been overcrowded or if the weather or a wake from a nearby boat could have been a factor. They would not say whether the children recovered from the cabin were wearing life jackets.
Boat operators are required to have a life jacket onboard for each passenger, and children under age 12 are required to wear them at all times unless they are inside a cabin, the police said.
The first emergency call to 911 about the boat was received at 10:10 p.m. on Wednesday.
A diver from a volunteer rescue squad pulled one of the bodies from the cabin, but conditions under water as the boat drifted were too hazardous for him to return for the other children, the police said. Other divers later located the bodies of the other two.
The boat drifted more than half a mile and was about 60 feet below the surface as crews worked to recover it in the morning, the police said.
The boat sank about three miles offshore, off Cove Neck not far from Cold Spring Harbor, said Vincent Garcia, a spokesman for the Nassau County police. “It apparently sank fast,” he said.
The three victims were all related, but he was not sure how, Mr. Garcia said, adding that all of those aboard the boat were friends and family members.
Salvatore Aurelino, who a neighbor said was an uncle of David's, had red, wet eyes when he answered the door at his home in Huntington. He said, "Not now, not now." When pressed for a comment, he said, "It's a tragedy."
A neighbor of Mr. Aurelino, who declined to give her name, said David had been a frequent visitor to his relative's home. She would see him in the street playing games with his cousins."He was a very special boy, very full of life," she said.
On Wednesday night, with the area filled with vessels, other boaters responded quickly to the capsizing. A man driving a speedboat was one of the first on the scene, rescuing about 20 people, according to Justin McCaffrey, the public safety commissioner for Oyster Bay.
Other rescue vessels were launched from Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay and the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club across the water on Centre Island. One man visiting the yacht club on Thursday, Bruce Lebens, said he was suspicious about the number of people aboard the capsized boat.
“That’s too many people on a 34-foot boat," Mr. Lebens said.
There are no federal regulations governing the capacity of boats the size of the one that capsized, according to the Coast Guard.
The fireworks show that filled the waters was sponsored by the Dolans, the family that operates Cablevision Systems, which includes a cable television and telecommunications system and the Madison Square Garden Company, owners of Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers.
The investigation into the accident is being led by the Nassau County police with the help of the Coast Guard and other agencies.