A yacht that capsized with 27 friends and family aboard on an outing to watch Fourth of July fireworks was severely overcrowded and doomed to tip over, safety experts said today as the skipper blamed the tragedy on a wave that came out of the dark. Three children died after becoming trapped last night in the cabin of the 34-foot vessel off Long Island's Oyster Bay. Sal Aurelino, who was at the helm of the Candi I, told TV's News12 Long Island that he saw two lightning bolts, and then a wave suddenly hit.
"It turned the boat around," he said, his voice cracking. "It just turned the boat. I didn't see it. It was dark. I didn't see it." Aurelino's nephew David Aurelino, 12, and two girls, 11-year-old Harley Treanor and 8-year-old Victoria Gaines, died. The 24 other passengers were rescued from the water. Phil Cusumano, a Boston-based safety instructor and yacht captain with 35 years of experience, said there is no question the boat was badly overloaded. He said he would limit a vessel of that size to six adults. Other boating sites suggested a maximum of 15 passengers. Police are investigating. (Read more Long Island stories.)