NEW YORK (AP) — The mother of one of three children who died inside the cabin of a capsized yacht said Friday she believed that was the safest place for her daughter.
Lisa Gaines, fighting back tears, appeared on NBC's "Today" show with her husband, Paul, and their lawyer.
The Fourth of July tragedy near Oyster Bay, Long Island, claimed the lives of their 7-year-old daughter, Victoria; David Aureliano, 12, and his cousin, Harlie Treanor, 11.
"Victoria was in the cabin because we felt it was the safest place," said Gaines, whose 12-year-old son, Ryan, also went on the outing to watch a fireworks display. "She was playing cards with Harlie, and Ryan and I were on the deck on a bench behind the operator of the boat."
She said Victoria and David were the only passengers she saw wearing life jackets. She did not know whether the boat had lifejackets for everyone.
There were 17 adults and 10 children on board the 34-foot vessel.
Asked if she thought the boat was overcrowded, Gaines said she didn't know.
"I really didn't see all of them at one time. I didn't know exactly how many were on," she said.
Authorities said they are looking at whether overcrowding, a mechanical malfunction, weather conditions or other factors could have been involved in the tragedy.
No criminal charges have been filed.
"The boat started to lean and it didn't recover and then it went over," Gaines said. "I don't know if we slid off or I fell off. I don't remember."
She credited her son with saving her life because she can't swim.
"We separated for a little while. I was going under ... so he grabbed me. He said 'I got you mom' and I grabbed onto him. He helped me swim to a chair that was floating before people got us out."
She said she was screaming her daughter's name as she floated in the darkness, hoping someone would yell out that they had her.
The boat, the Kandi Won, was lifted from the bottom of the bay off the north shore of Long Island on Wednesday and towed to a marina for a preliminary inspection.