09/29/2012 // New York, New York, USA // New York Injury Accident Lawyer // Jonathan C. Reiter // (press release)
A boat whose manufacturer’s guidelines called for a maximum of 15 passengers at any one time, capsized in the Oyster Bay area of Long Island Sound, with 27 passengers aboard, resulting in the drowning deaths of three young children, in a tragic boating accident that occurred on the Fourth of July. The accident occurred in the overcrowded boat, in the dark, following a fireworks display in Oyster Bay, Long Island.
Two of the children were 12-years old, and another child was 8-years old. The operator of the boat was the uncle of the two 12-year-old children.
A preliminary investigation shows that the boat was overcrowded with family and friends, most of whom were teens and children, who had crowded on board to watch the fireworks display in Oyster Bay. The cause of the accident is still under investigation, though it appears that a combination of a flash lightning storm, which led to many boats leaving the area at the same time, causing large wakes to build up and immerse the boat, caused the boat to capsize.
Jonathan C. Reiter, a New York boating accident attorney, who has handled many maritime accidents stated as follows: “It remains to be seen what the actual manufacturers specifications were for the weight load permitted for the boat. It is possible that the 15-passenger limit applied to 15 adults, and since many of the passengers were young children, the boat may not have been overloaded if based on the total weight of the passengers. The law in the State of New York requires that a life preserver be provided for each passenger on board, and requires that children under the age of 12 wear a life preserver while on board, except when present in the cabin. In this case, it appears that all three children who drowned were in the cabin at the time that the boat capsized. Whether they were wearing a life preserver at the time may not have been a factor in their deaths, since all three children became trapped within the cabin. A theory of negligence against the operator can be based on the overcrowding of the boat itself, or on the fact that there were insufficient safety measures such as life preservers provided to the passengers”. Moreover, according to Mr. Reiter, “there may well be liability against the manufacturer of the boat for failure to warn against over-crowding, and failure to train the operator in the proper operation of the boat. Ultimately, it will be up to engineering and safety experts to determine whether the boat was indeed overloaded, or if there were other safety violations, and whether these violations were a substantial factor in causing this accident.”
A 34-foot boat weighs about 20,000 to 25,000 lbs. The 27 people probably weighed about 4500 lbs. Most boats of this size carry about 500 gallons of fuel, which at about 6.5 lbs/gallon is about 3200 lbs. So, it does not seem likely that the additional weight of so many people would result in a catastrophic performance failure of a modern and well-designed boat. Highly suspicious for an undetected hull failure. This could have been something as minor as a loose hull fitting for a water pump. Combined with the failure of a bilge pump and failure of high water bilge alarms, enough water can quite rapidly enter the hull. At 8.5 lbs per gallon, 1,000 gallons of water weighs 8,500 lbs. The water also has momentum within the hull causing a shift of the center of gravity. The further investigation of this tragic accident will most likely require the final hull survey, which may be key in determining the cause of this accident.
It is a tragic accident like this that raises much needed public awareness of proper boat operations and safety, and the high risk of loss of life when appropriate safety standards are not met.
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