Lake George, NY Tourist Boat ETHAN ALLEN Sinking, Oct 2005
21 DIE IN SINKING OF TOURIST BOAT IN ADIRONDACKS.
Lake George, N.Y. - A boat filled with elderly tourists on a cruise of Lake George capsized suddenly and sank yesterday afternoon under a clear sky, killing 21 passengers and injuring several more, the authorities said.
The Ethan Allen, a 40-foot, glass-enclosed tour boat, went down with 49 people aboard, only a few hundred feet from the lake's western shore, about two miles north of the village of Lake George, in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. In minutes, the accident killed nearly twice as many people as the 11 who died in the crash of a Staten Island ferry in 2003.
Witnesses and officials said the boat had flipped over with startling speed - possibly swamped by the wake of a bigger boat - and plunged dozens of passengers, most of them elderly and some of them using walkers, into the cold water without life preservers. The cause of the accident was under investigation.
Brian Hart, who was canoeing, nearby,
said the Ethan Allen had made a hard right turn, "like he was trying to steer away from something," and "in a matter of 45 seconds, it slipped right over."
Afterward, officials of Warren County set up a makeshift morgue on a lawn beside the lake, with a row of bodies under white sheets. Soaked survivors milled around nearby as people who lived and worked in the area rushed to their aid.
"They were very shaken," said Frank Sause, an owner of the Cramer's Point Motel, which is nearby. "One looked over my shoulder and said,
'That's my wife. She's dead.' I said,
'Don't jump to conclusions, you don't know yet."
Lake George, a long, narrow finger of water ringed by heavily wooded mountains in the southern Adirondacks, is piled daily by several tour boats, most of them much larger than the Ethan Allen. On sunny weekend days like yesterday, the lake, which is about an hour's drive north of Albany within the Adirondack Park, can be a nautical traffic jam of sailboats, small motorboats, larger tour boats and personal watercraft.
Parks officials said the sinking of the Ethan Allen was the state's worsts boating accident in recent memory. Jim Millard, a local historian, said he believed it was the worst ever on Lake George, and another local historian, William P. Gates, said there had not been a fatal commercial boating accident there since 1893.
The state's Department of Parks and Recreation regulates commercial boats and inspects each of them annually, Wendy Gibson, a department spokeswoman, said, adding that the Ethan Allen passed inspection in May.
The accident is being investigated by the Warren County Sheriff's Department and the State Police, and officials said the NTSB would also join the inquiry.
When the Ethan Allen capsized, dozens of people passing a sunny afternoon on their own boats or on shore swarmed to the site, pulling survivors from the water, tossing them life preservers and plucking them from the upturned keel of the boat before it slipped entirely below the water.