- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2005

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (AP) — A tour boat that capsized on a New York lake, killing 20 persons, did not have the required number of crew members aboard, leading state regulators to suspend licenses for all five vessels belonging to the company that operated the tour, officials said yesterday.

The Ethan Allen, which overturned Sunday on Lake George while carrying 47 senior citizens, was required by state boating regulations to have two crew members, said Wendy Gibson, spokeswoman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Any commercial boat that carries 21 to 48 passengers must have two crew members, she said.

Authorities have said the only crew member aboard was Capt. Richard Paris.

“If that’s the case, there’s going to be a problem, and it looks like that’s the direction this is headed in,” Warren County Sheriff Larry Cleveland said.

Earlier yesterday, officials had said state rules allowed for just one crew member for up to 50 passengers.

State regulators originally suspended the licenses for two small boats similar to the Ethan Allen, but Miss Gibson said they had expanded the suspension to include two larger vessels that carry 400 and 200 passengers, compared with the smaller boats that carry between 30 and 50 people.

Earlier yesterday, authorities said the passengers aboard the tour boat were sitting on long benches and slid sharply to one side of the vessel just before it flipped.

State police Superintendent Wayne Bennett said that investigators do not know what initially caused the Ethan Allen to tip. But he said passengers either slid or were thrown to one side of the boat after it began lurching.

“And that, of course, would automatically mean an even bigger shift of weight,” Mr. Bennett said. Earlier yesterday, Mr. Bennett said the seats were not secured to deck. But later, state police said that was incorrect.

The captain of the 40-foot, glass-enclosed boat told authorities it was hit by waves from at least one other vessel and overturned as he tried to steer out of them, authorities said earlier yesterday.

The boat flipped so fast that none of the 47 passengers — most of them from Michigan — could put on a life jacket.

New York state regulations require that life jackets be made available for every person on a boat, but adult passengers do not have to wear them.

There was no immediate confirmation that another boat that could have churned up waves was in the area, and survivors were giving investigators differing versions of what happened before the boat went down in calm, sunny weather, authorities said.

Eight persons were hospitalized with shortness of breath, broken bones and other injuries.

Yesterday afternoon, crews using inflatable bags raised the sunken vessel 70 feet to the surface. They planned to pump it out and tow it to shore. National Transportation Safety Board investigators will examine the wreck.

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