Three Children Dead After Yacht Capsizes – This Should Not Have Happened
The Fourth of July is supposed to be a joyous event. There’s nothing like celebrating the birthday of this great and grand country of ours. Outdoor barbecues, parades and fireworks make the day so very special. Invariably, we hear of tragic stories like fireworks accidents, drunk-driving deaths and other mishaps. This year was no different: 27 people were thrown off a 34-foot Silverton motor yacht in Oyster Bay, New York after the vessel capsized because of a wake thrown from another vessel. Three children drowned. The other 24 passengers were rescued.
What comes to mind first is whether or not the vessel’s passenger capacity had been exceeded. A review of the yacht owner’s manual gives no guidance. However, it is noted that the vessel sleeps six passengers. A review of the photographs of the cockpit and helm reveal a seating capacity of approximately eight persons. One wonders why the children were not wearing life preservers. Taking that question a little further, were that many life preservers on the boat in the first place?
Prior to leaving port, the Captain should have formulated a float plan. He should’ve checked the capacity for the vessel, which is typically stamped near the helm. A safety check should’ve been conducted to ensure an appropriate number of personal flotation devices were aboard the boat. A safety debriefing should have been given to all the passengers prior to leaving port. No one knows for sure whether or not this is a place because authorities are still conducting their investigation.
Vessels that are overloaded are harder to control.Their maneuverability is sluggish and unsafe. It seems difficult to comprehend that a wake from a neighboring vessel could capsized a boat like the Silverton 35 unless it was made exceptionally top-heavy by excess passengers being in the helm, cockpit and on the foredeck.
I’m sure the Captain will be facing difficult questions from the authorities. As the custodian of all the passengers, the Captain is responsible for everyone’s safety. This is another example of failure on the part of the Captain that has resulted in extraordinarily tragic consequences.
The lesson to be learned here is to consult the vessels information in determining the maximum amount of passengers suggested by the manufacturer. Additionally, make sure that all safety considerations are accounted for and implemented.