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Father of Oyster Bay capsize victim sues

Paul Gaines, father of July 4 boating victim

Paul Gaines, father of July 4 boating victim Victoria Gaines, talks to the media after the family's attorney testified at a state hearing on boating safety. (Aug. 8, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The father of one of three children who died in the July Fourth 2012 Oyster Bay boating accident filed a negligence lawsuit on Friday.

Attorney Michael Della of Ronkonkoma filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Riverhead on behalf of Paul Gaines, who is also the executor of 7-year-old Victoria Gaines' estate. It seeks in excess of $50,000 of actual and punitive damages from 10 defendants. Victoria's mother, Lisa, is not a party in the lawsuit.

The defendants include boat owner Kevin Treanor and his brother-in-law, Salvatore Aureliano, who Nassau authorities say was steering the Kandi Won when the 34-foot Silverton cabin cruiser with 27 people aboard capsized on its return to Huntington after a fireworks display.

Other defendants are manufacturer Silverton Marine Corp., even though the company is out of business; two other companies involved in building the boat, Luhrs Marine Group and Morgan Industries Corp.; Guy Denigris, who steered the boat from Huntington to Oyster Bay; Greg and Deborah Aureliano, who escaped from the cabin where the three children drowned; and Cablevision CEO James Dolan and his wife, Kristin. Before this year, the Dolan family had sponsored annual July Fourth fireworks displays at its waterfront Cove Neck property for many years.

When the Kandi Won capsized, a dozen adults and 15 children and teenagers were onboard. The three who died -- 12-year-old David Aureliano of Kings Park, who was Salvatore Aureliano's nephew, Harlie Treanor, 11, of Huntington Station, and family friend Victoria Gaines of Huntington -- were trapped in the cabin.

The Nassau County district attorney's office issued a report in July stating that overloading was the primary cause of the accident based on stability tests of the recovered boat.

"I think there are still unanswered questions," Della said in an interview Friday, "and I think the family deserves answers. This lawsuit is all about holding people accountable to prevent this from ever happening again. I think there was a cascade of failures."

Kevin Treanor's maritime attorney, James E. Mercante of Manhattan, said Friday, "I truly hope the family finds answers and that it brings them some solace."

Mercante, who has contended the boat was not overcrowded, last week asked for any litigation to be heard in federal court under admiralty law to limit liability. Della hopes to prove negligence in federal court so the case can be remanded to state court.

The lawsuit charges Treanor, Aureliano and Denigris were negligent for allowing the boat to leave its Huntington marina overloaded, "failing to develop and provide adequate safety procedures for emergency situations," failing to require everyone on board to wear life jackets and "operating the vessel in a careless and negligent manner."

Anthony M. La Pinta, Salvatore Aureliano's attorney, said his client's "actions did not cause or contribute to this terrible tragedy as was determined by a very thorough investigation."

The Dolans declined to comment through their attorney, Jeffrey S. Lichtman. Luhrs Marine Group, Morgan Industries Corp., Guy Denigris, and Greg and Deborah Aureliano could not be reached for comment.

The Dolan family owns a controlling interest in Cablevision, which owns Newsday.

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