Sunken cruiser to be raised next week

Sal Aureliano, who was piloting the Silverton cabin Sal Aureliano, who was piloting the Silverton cabin cruiser that capsized in Oyster Bay July Fourth. Three children died. Aureliano is talking with News 12 Thursday morning. (July 5, 2012) Photo Credit: News 12

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Sometime early next week, authorities plan to raise the sunken cabin cruiser on which three children died during a July Fourth fireworks trip, according to police.

Inspecting the 34-foot Silverton, which remains submerged in 70 feet of water in Oyster Bay, will allow investigators to check for structural damage and mechanical failures, look at the number of life jackets aboard, and help determine what may have caused the boat to capsize Wednesday, police said.

Police did not give a precise date for the operation, but the boat owner's attorney, James Mercante, of Manhattan, said the salvage is scheduled for Tuesday. The 1984 yacht, the Kandi Won, had 27 people aboard, at least 10 of whom were children, he said.

The children who died -- cousins David Aureliano, 12, and Harlie Treanor, 11, and family friend Victoria Gaines, 7 -- were trapped in the cabin while the others were tossed into the water, officials said.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Nassau police have indicated that the main focus of their investigation was whether the boat was overcrowded at a time when vessels were departing the area after a fireworks show had concluded.

Officials said they are trying to determine if wakes from other boats, stormy weather or mechanical failure also played a role.

Nassau homicide detectives are interviewing dozens of survivors and witnesses and reviewing any video of what happened.

John Byrne, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice's spokesman, said his office is working with police on the investigation.

Investigators say interviews so far appear to indicate there is a strong possibility that the vessel did not have the legally required number of life jackets aboard, a police spokesman said Friday.

One of the drowned children appears to have been wearing a life jacket, the spokesman said.

According to New York State boating laws, one Coast Guard-approved life jacket must be available for each passenger on every vessel.

Children younger than 12 must wear a life jacket, unless they are in a totally enclosed cabin.

Mercante, hired by the insurance company for boat owner Kevin Treanor, said there were "plenty of life jackets -- certainly more than 27."

Mike Della, of Ronkonkoma, attorney for the Gaines family, said he wants to find out "who, if anyone, was responsible for the boat capsizing."

Mercante said he doesn't believe there is criminal culpability. "As far as the issues of overloading, there is no federal or state requirement regarding the capacity of the vessel . . . those are manufacturer recommendations, not statutory," he said.

While the Coast Guard does not require capacity limits on craft longer than 20 feet, some manufacturers of larger boats voluntarily place weight or number-of-passengers restrictions on their models. But Mercante said there was no capacity placard on the Silverton.

Experts and lawyers uninvolved in the case said it would be very difficult to successfully prosecute a case against the boat's driver, Sal Aureliano, or the owner of the boat.

"My gut reaction is that while this is a terrible tragedy, it would be very difficult to make out a criminal case," said Frank Schroeder, a civil lawyer and former major offense prosecutor in Nassau.

Under state law, having too few life jackets aboard is not a crime, neither is having too many people aboard a boat more than 26 feet, they said.

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