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Lake tour boat fleet docked amid investigation

OCT. 5 — New York state authorities Monday suspended the operating certificates for all of Shoreline Cruises’ five tour boats. One of those boats, Ethan Allen, capsized and sank Sunday afternoon on Lake George, killing 20 elderly passengers.

The suspensions came after authorities determined that 74-year-old Richard Paris, the captain, was the only crewmember aboard the 40-foot glass-encased tour boat. Commercial boats in New York carrying between 21 and 48 passengers are required to have at least two crewmembers, news reports say. Ethan Allen is certified to carry up to 50 people — 48 passengers and 2 crewmembers. On Sunday, there were 47 passengers on board.

State officials had originally suspended the certificates for Shoreline Cruises’ smaller boats — Ethan Allen, The de Champlain and Algonquin. The suspensions were later expanded to include Adriondac, which can carry up to 400 passengers, and Horicon, which can carry up to 200, news reports say. Maximum capacity for the smaller boats is between 30 and 50 people.

Paris told local police that wakes from passing vessels contributed to the capsizing of the boat, according to news reports. The boat apparently turned over so quickly its passengers did not have a chance to put on PFDs. Authorities said a sudden shift of passengers’ weight might have been a factor as well.

Crews using inflatable bags raised the sunken Ethan Allen on Monday. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to begin examining the boat in the coming days.

— Jason Fell