The mother of one of three children killed in the July Fourth tragedy in Oyster Bay said she screamed her daughter’s name after the 34-foot boat capsized, hoping the young girl would confirm that she was okay.
“I was just screaming her name to see if she came up because I knew she was below us,” an emotional Lisa Gaines told Matt Lauer on Today Friday morning, fighting back tears and breathing heavily during the entire interview.
“I was screaming her name just to see if anyone would yell out that they had her,” she said in the interview.
Her daughter, 8-year-old Victoria Gaines, was the youngest of three children who died when 27 people boarded the Kandi Won, a cabin cruiser, to enjoy a fireworks demonstration in Cold Spring Harbor. The two other victims were 12-year-old David Aureliano of Kings Park and Harlie Treanor, 11, of Huntington Station.
All three were trapped in the cabin when the boat sank last week.
Gaines was with her son Ryan on the deck behind the boat’s operator when the boat capsized and Victoria was in the cabin playing cards with Harlie and David because the parents felt “that was the safest place,” Gaines said.
Victoria and David were the only passengers wearing life jackets, she said. “Nobody else was.”
“The boat started to lean and it didn’t recover and then it just went over,” Gaines said. She was thrown into the water and started to go under when Ryan grabbed her and said, “I got you mom,” Gaines recalled. With his help, mother and son swam to a chair that was floating in the water. Victoria was nowhere to be seen.
“It was very fast,” she said of entire event.
Gaines’ husband, Paul, who was not on the boat at the time, said he got a call from a local fire department telling him that his wife and son were safe but that his daughter was still missing. He said he was “frantically” trying to find them and went from hospital to hospital looking for Victoria.
Before the incident, Gaines said all 27 people—17 adults and 10 children—were spread out evenly throughout the boat. She never noticed if there was enough life jackets for everyone on board, which is required under New York State law.
An attorney for Kevin Treanor, Harlie’s father and the boat’s owner, has said the boat was not overcrowded and that there were enough life jackets on the vessel.
Police have since raised the vessel from the bottom of the Long Island Sound and are now investigating what caused the boat to capsize. Police are trying to determine whether mechanical failure or human error caused the boat to overturn. A representative for the family denied the operator was at fault.
The man at the helm, Sal Aureliano, David’s uncle, told reporters after the incident that a wave hit the boat right before it capsized.
Nearly two weeks after the tragedy, Victoria’s father, Paul, told Today that the family is in the early stages of penning “Victoria’s Law” to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again in the future.
“I woke up the other morning and it just really hit me really hard that my daughter is no longer with us and I hate the thought of her loss of life not benefiting anybody in the future,” he said. “So I can’t stand the thought of something like this happening again when it’s completely avoidable on multiple levels.”