Tour boat overturns on upstate New York lake, killing at least 20 people on senior citizens’ cruise
LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (AP) – A glass-enclosed boat carrying senior citizens on a cruise overturned Sunday on a calm, chilly lake in upstate New York, killing at least 20 people and sending more than two dozen shivering passengers to a hospital.The accident may have occurred when the boat was hit by the wake of a larger passing vessel, Warren County Sheriff Larry Cleveland said. “We haven’t ruled anything out yet,” he said.The boat was carrying a tour group from the Trenton, Mich., area, among others, and was sailing just north of the village of Lake George, a popular tourist destination. With calm waters, clear skies and temperatures in the 70s, it seemed perfect boating weather.The 40-foot Ethan Allen capsized around 3 p.m. on Lake George about 50 miles north of Albany in the Adirondack Mountains.The accident apparently happened so fast that none of the passengers was able to put on a life jacket, Cleveland said.Adult boat passengers are not required to wear life jackets in New York, but boats must carry at least one life jacket per passenger.Patrol boats that reached the scene within minutes found other boaters already pulling people from the water. All passengers had been accounted for within two hours.Twenty-seven people were taken to a hospital in nearby Glens Falls. Some suffered broken ribs and others complained of shortness of breath. Five people were to be admitted, hospital spokesman Jason White said.Police investigators were at the hospital late Sunday to question survivors.Dorothy Warren, a resident who said she brought blankets and chairs to shore for survivors, said one passenger told her “she saw a big boat coming close and she said, ‘Whoop-dee-doo. I love a rocking boat.”‘Warren said the woman did not know how she got out of the water but said her mother was killed.Officials gave conflicting information on the number of dead and passengers. Cleveland said there were 48 or 49 people aboard, which was close to the boat’s maximum capacity of 50.Investigators were interviewing survivors to get an accurate count. The National Transportation Safety Board was expected at the lake Monday, the sheriff said.The captain, the only crew member aboard, survived. Cleveland said he was well known and well liked by law enforcement officials.Trenton, Mich., Mayor Gerald Brown said the group left Tuesday on a weeklong bus-and-rail trip to see changing fall colors along the East Coast. The trip was organized through the city’s parks and recreation department and arranged through a Canadian company, Brown said.”We’re in mourning,” Brown told Detroit television station WJBK. “It’s not a very big community. Many of those people I knew. We’re still not sure which ones didn’t make it.”The mayor said 14 Trenton residents were among those on the boat. Of those, three were killed, six survived, and the conditions of the other five were unknown.U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, who talked with survivors at the hospital, said the boat flipped in about 30 seconds, giving victims no time to react.Many of the bodies were laid out along the shore, and the site was blocked off by police with tarps. A hearse, police vehicles and several sport utility vehicles later began taking the dead from the scene.The weather did not appear to be a factor on the lake, a long, narrow body of water that is a popular tourist destination in the summer and quiets down after Labor Day. The water temperature was 68 degrees.”This was as calm as it gets,” said Jerry Thornell, a former Lake George Park Commission patrol officer and a lake enforcement officer for the county sheriff’s department.Late Sunday, a tour bus pulled up on the darkened north side of the Glens Falls Hospital, away from reporters. About 10 people, mostly older women wrapped in blankets, walked out of the hospital and boarded the bus.At the Georgian Hotel in Lake George, where some boat passengers had been staying, a police cruiser and other emergency personnel kept the media away.Representatives of Shoreline Cruises, which operates the boat, could not immediately be reached for comment.The boat’s owner, Jim Quirk, whose family has operated Shoreline Cruises for decades, told the Glens Falls Post-Star: “It is a tragedy and it’s very unfortunate.”As dusk fell, several police boats were on the water, and at least half a dozen divers were in a small cove on the west side of the lake. The Ethan Allen lay at the bottom of the lake in 70 feet of water.”Nothing of this magnitude has ever happened,” state police Superintendent Wayne Bennett said. “It’s unprecedented.”—Associated Press writers Candice Choi and Matt Smith contributed to this report.
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