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Early fall cruise turns tragic

The captain of a tour boat says wakes from passing vessels contributed to the capsizing of his boat on upstate New York’s Lake George Sunday afternoon. At least 20 people died after the boat’s 47 elderly passengers went overboard into the 68-degree water.

Richard Paris told authorities that he was attempting to maneuver Ethan Allen, a glass-enclosed tour boat, out of a series of waves when the boat capsized at about 3 p.m., news reports say. The boat reportedly overturned so quickly its passengers did not have time to put on PFDs. Ethan Allen, which is described as a 40-foot Dyer, later sank.

“The boat was sideways in the water, and people were screaming,” Joanne Rahal, who was aboard another boat on the lake when Ethan Allen flipped, told the Associated Press. “Bodies were floating by our boat.”

Warren County authorities set up a “makeshift morgue” on a lawn beside the lake, with a row of bodies under white sheets, one report says. All 47 passengers were reportedly from Michigan. Survivors were taken to an area hospital for treatment.

Ethan Allen is one of a number of tour boats operated by Shoreline Cruises of Lake George, N.Y. According to information on its Web site, Ethan Allen is ordinarily used for short narrated cruises close to shore. The accident reportedly happened a few hundred feet from the lake’s western shore, about two miles north of the village of Lake George.

Paris was not tested for drug or alcohol use because authorities did not suspect him to be intoxicated, news reports say. The Warren Count Sheriff’s Department and the state police are investigating the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is also expected to conduct an investigation.

Jason Fell