"It turned the boat around," he said. "It just turned the boat. I didn't see it. It was dark. I didn't see it."
Aurelino's nephew David Aurelino, 12, and two girls, 11-year-old Harley Treanor and 8-year-old Victoria Gaines, died. The 24 other passengers - a combination of adults and children - were rescued from the water, mostly by fellow boaters, and were not seriously hurt.
"The next thing I know, we're turning, and we just kept turning, and everybody was in the water. It was chaos," said Aurelino, who didn't answer the door to the Associated Press.
The cause of the accident was under investigation, 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.
The Silverton yacht, built in 1984 but purchased recently, was under 60 feet of water Thursday and officials worked to raise it. The yacht company filed for bankruptcy in April, and no one was available to say what the maximum number aboard should be.
Phil Cusumano, a Boston-based safety instructor and yacht captain with 35 years of experience, said there is 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," 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."