Boat crash on central NY lake kills father, 2 sons

July 6, 2012 7:01:42 AM PDT
A father and two of his adult sons were killed when their boat struck a buoy on a central New York lake during a nighttime outing, authorities said Friday.

The bodies of the three men - ages 66, 45 and 41 - were recovered Friday morning near where the boat sank late Thursday night on Oneida Lake, Lt. James McCarthy of the Oneida County Sheriff's Office said.

A third son, 39, was rescued by firefighters after a 911 call was received around 10:15 p.m. He was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica, but information on his condition wasn't available.

McCarthy said the boat sank in about 15 feet of water in an area of the lake known as Messenger Shoal. The victims' names and hometowns were being withheld until relatives were notified, he said.

The boat's operator may have been unfamiliar with the lake or been distracted by fireworks being set off from shore and didn't spot the buoy in the darkness, McCarthy said. None of the men appeared to have been wearing lifejackets, he said.

A search involving volunteer fire departments, police agencies, helicopters and U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard vessels and aircraft was started late Thursday night and lasted until state police divers found the bodies around 8 a.m. Friday.

Police described the sunken vessel as an open-bow powerboat, about 20 feet in length. Its model and manufacturer weren't available, officials said. A salvage crew was expected to raise the boat Saturday, McCarthy said.

The accident on the upstate lake came one day after an overloaded yacht capsized off Oyster Bay in Long Island Sound, killing three children who were among 27 people aboard to watch July 4th fireworks. Investigators were looking at possibilities including the weather, overcrowding and a wake from another vessel as reasons the 34-foot yacht flipped in heavy boat traffic. Killed were a 12-year-old boy and two girls, ages 11 and 8.

Oneida Lake, at 80 square miles, is the largest lake entirely within New York state. Averaging 22 feet deep, it's 10 miles northeast of Syracuse and serves as one of the links in the Erie Canal. The lake is a recreational waterway for boaters from the Syracuse and Utica areas, with Sylvan Beach's bars, restaurants and amusement parks making it a popular summertime destination.