The non-profit group Heart of Sailing Foundation strives to help special needs children cope with the difficulties of their everyday lives through sailing therapy. Heart of Sailing provides special needs kids and their families with a chance to leave their troubles on shore and escape into adventure on the high waters. However, in the course of its admirable work, one of the group's sailboats capsized earlier this week, leaving several of its passengers dead.
There were ten individuals aboard the vessel when a strong gust of wind caught one of the sails and caused the boat to tip. After the boat accident, the passengers were thrown into 50 degree water, cold enough to provoke hypothermia. By the time rescue teams pulled the victims from the bay, it was too late for the 73-year-old grandfather and 48-year-old uncle of one of the special needs children. Both men died later that night.
The only sailor on board at the time of the accident was the executive director of the Heart of Sailing Foundation, who also began the charity in 2004. According to Heart of Sailing's board president, the executive director frequently leads excursions of this nature and is an experienced seaman. The president told reporters that the high winds simply proved too much for the sailboat to stand.
Police, however, are investigating whether or not safety violations played a role in Sunday's accident. Officers believe that the organization may have allowed too many passengers to board the vessel, exceeding the boat's weight limit. Heart of Sailing representatives fervently denied this claim, asserting that they are not aware of any safety measures which were violated on the day of the accident.
As investigators continue to probe into this incident, hopefully the victims' families will receive more concrete answers regarding why this tragedy occurred and what could have been done to prevent it.
Source: Associated Press, "Wind gust blamed for fatal SD capsize." 28 March 2011