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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Child’s Drowning Death Ruled Accidental

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UPDATE The drowning death of a 3-year-old New York City girl off Westport’s Cockenoe Island was accidental, the state medical examiner’s office said today.

Alexandra Vitale was with two young cousins and an 18-year-old female sailing instructor from the Longshore Sailing School when their Hobie Cat catamaran was capsized by winds at abhout 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to police.

Alexandra was pronounced dead at Norwalk Hospital after attempts to resuscitate her failed. She was with cousins William Howell, 3, and Andrew Howell, 6, also of Brooklyn. They and the sailing instructor, who was not identified, were rescued safely.

The Longshore Sailing School today expressed condolences to the family.

“We are deeply saddened by the incident on the Sound Tuesday morning,” it said in a statement.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family in this tragic accident. We are still looking into the circumstances leading to this very sad loss. We will provide more details when we know them.”

Alexandra’s father, Dr. Michael G. Vitale, is an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and chief of the pediatric spine service at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York, part of New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The New York Daily News quoted Arthur Aidala, a close friend of Alexandra’s parents, as saying: “She was a beautiful, engaging little girl. She was out sailing before. I do know she knew how to swim. She was wearing a life preserver. It was just a tragic accident.”

The New York Post quoted Aidala as saying Alexandra “was the apple of his (her father’s) eye. She was Daddy’s little girl.”

The Post also quoted “an official” as saying that Alexandra and her cousins were too young to be enrolled in a regular class at Longshore, but their parents had worked out a “separate arrangement” with the school.

The family has a summer residence in Westport, police said.

A memorial service was set for the Quaker Meeting Hall, 110 Schermerhorn St., Brooklyn, at 10 a.m. on Friday.

An obituary notice said Alexandra Pamela Vitale was the “adored 3 1/2 year old daughter of Dr. Michael and Andrea Vitale of Brooklyn, N.Y. Cherished granddaughter of Dr. Aldo and Dorothy Vitale, Joyce and Robert Radetsky, and Marcel and Marion Aronheim. Loving big sister of Lucas.

“We will never forget your beauty with love of life and spirit.”

It said in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of N.Y. Presbyterian Fund.


Posted 08/27/08 at 09:24 PM


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This is one of the saddest stories I’ve read in a very long time. My heart goes out to all involved. Since I have two teenagers, I can’t stop thinking about and feeling for the 18 year old instructor and how painful this will be for her for years to come. I feel so bad.
I told my my son who is a junior at Staples about this tragedy today. It opened up a discussion that I’d had with him and his older brother at least a few times as they grew up about having the courage to stand up to an adult and say NO! if you know that what they are asking you to do is wrong or unsafe no matter what the circumstance. It is so hard to think quickly as a kid and stand up to an adult and it’s unfortunate that an 18 year old was put in that position when it came to such a serious matter. What a tragedy for all. I will never understand how one teenager ended up taking two three year old babies who don’t swim and a six year old who may or may not swim out on any boat, especially a Hobie Cat that capsizes so easily. It’s so frustrating that it was such an obviously dangerous situation. My prayers go out to all.

Posted by Frances Southworth on August 27, 2008 at 10:07 PM | #

I agree this type of accident should not be happening and my heart goes out to all especially the parents of the young girl who died. The Longshore Sailing School should rethink their policy’s, if they have any. How can one expect an 18 year old to be able to properly control a sailing vessel while concurrently assuring the safety of three very young children. Someone’s judgement was seriously flawed allowing this sailing voyage to happen.

Hopefully everyone will learn from this accident and something like this will not happen again.

Posted by Tom Bloch on August 27, 2008 at 11:32 PM | #

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