A yacht that capsized with 27 people aboard during Independence Day fireworks, killing three children, was severely overcrowded and doomed to tip over, experts said.
Their comments came as as the skipper blamed the deadly tragedy on a wave that came out of the dark off Long Island in New York, on Wednesday night. Three children died after becoming trapped in the cabin of the vessel .
Sal Aureliano, 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 strike.
"The next thing I know, we're turning, and we just kept turning, and everybody was in the water. It was chaos," he said, his voice cracking.
Mr Aureliano's nephew David Aureliano, 12, and two girls, 11-year-old Harley Treanor and Victoria Gaines, eight, died. The 24 other passengers were rescued from the water and were not seriously hurt.
The cause of the accident was being investigated, but it could have been the weather, overcrowding, the wake from another vessel or a combination of factors, said Nassau County detective Lt John Azzata. The area was crowded with boaters watching the fireworks, he said.
Safety experts said most boats had a manufacturer's plate that listed capacity by number of adults and by total weight.
Phil Cusumano, a Boston-based safety instructor and yacht captain, said there was 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.
"Twenty-seven is just crazy," Mr Cusumano said. "I wouldn't dream of doing that. I wouldn't do it at the dock, much less take it out on the water. It would tip over with the first turn."
Though there was some rain at about 10pm, conditions were in "no way bad enough" to capsize a large boat on their own, said David Waldo, an expert boater who was also on the water on Wednesday night. He said the number of people on board was "alarming".