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Farmingdale family survives Costa Rican catamaran nightmare

From left, Ryan O'Keefe, 20, Kelly O'Keefe, 18

From left, Ryan O'Keefe, 20, Kelly O'Keefe, 18 and Janet O'Keefe, 50, of Farmingdale, who were on a Costa Rican catamaran that capsized on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. Michael O'Keefe, in the rear, was scheduled to golf that day. Photo Credit: Facebook

Members of a Farmingdale family were on a Costa Rican catamaran that sank in the Pacific Ocean last week in an accident that killed three passengers.

Janet O'Keefe, 50, her son Ryan, 20, and daughter Kelly, 18, were among about 100 passengers on the Pura Vida Princess when it departed Thursday morning amid high winds and heavy seas, the family said in a telephone interview Sunday.

The 100-foot catamaran, on a day trip to Tortuga Island, capsized about 9 miles off the country's central Pacific Coast before completely sinking, according to The Associated Press. The dead were an American woman, a Canadian woman and a British man.

The boat began to tilt, and Ryan O'Keefe saw a crew member who he believed to be the captain going downstairs. He came back up sprinting and wet, with no shirt on, Ryan said.

The crew handed out life jackets, and shortly after, the boat began to sink.

"In less than a minute, the boat was gone," Janet O'Keefe said. "There was a lot of chaos, a lot of screaming."

In the water, she was holding onto wood from a bench, while daughter Kelly was on a flotation device. Ryan was trying to gather bags and items onto four kayaks that had detached from the boat.

They saw crew members performing CPR on two passengers, who she was told later died. "I told her [Kelly] to look away, don't look," Janet O'Keefe said.

After about an hour, Kelly and Janet were picked up by a passing cargo ship. Ryan was picked up about 20 minutes later by a sportfishing boat. It would be hours before Janet knew that her son was safe. "That was the hardest part," she said.

Michael O'Keefe, Janet's husband and the kids' father, was going to play golf that day. Ryan is a student at Nassau Community College. Kelly is a freshman at SUNY Plattsburgh.

"I'm not going into the ocean anytime soon. I'm not going on a boat anytime soon," Janet O'Keefe said. "I can't wait to get back to Long Island. I don't care how cold it is or how snowy it is."

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