GLENS FALLS, New York By Holly McKenna
Sun Oct 2,11:27 PM ET Reuters
Twenty-one people from a senior citizens' tour group were killed on Sunday when a small tour boat capsized after it hit the wake from a larger boat on Lake George in upstate New York, police said.
The 40-foot (12-metre)-long, glass-enclosed Ethan Allen, operated by Shoreline Cruises, was carrying 50 passengers and crew when it capsized on Lake George, a resort area 200 miles
north of New York City at about 3 p.m. (1900 GMT), Warren County Sheriff Larry Cleveland told a news conference.
The passengers were from Michigan on a tour run by a Canadian company of several Northeastern states. No identities were released.
Witnesses and authorities said the boat was making a left turn when it hit the wake of a larger boat, the Mohican, operated by Lake George Steamboat Co., which swamped and flipped the Ethan Allen sending the elderly passengers, who were on the upper deck and not wearing life jackets, into the water.
Twenty-seven people, ages 55 to 90, were taken to a local hospital, some with cardiac distress, broken ribs and shortness of breath, said Jayson White, a spokesman for Glens Falls hospital. Seven of those were admitted. The rest were released on Sunday.
Cleveland said all 29 people who survived the accident had been accounted for.
The boat's captain, Richard Paris, a Canadian, survived the accident and was visibly shaken, witnesses said.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard will begin an investigation of the accident on Monday.
Local resident Frank Sause, who went to the lake after hearing emergency sirens, told CNN that several boats rushed to the accident scene to help rescue more than a dozen survivors who clung to the capsized boat for several minutes before it sank in the placid waters on a sunny afternoon.
Fire and other rescue teams were on the scene within minutes to pull the elderly tourists out of the water. Many pleasure boats also responded and threw cushions and other life-saving devices to people in the water.
Some witnesses reported seeing smoke coming from the boat just before it sank by the stern.
"That's my wife, she's dead," Sause quoted one elderly survivor as saying as he was brought to shore. A temporary morgue was set up at a nearby campground, and bodies lay on the ground under white covers.
Media reports said the Ethan Allen was about 50 feet to 100 feet from shore when the accident happened.
Several local residents said the tour boat company had a good reputation with no known serious accidents and that nothing of the sort had occurred on the popular lake in memory.
"It is a tragedy and it's very unfortunate," Shoreline owner Jim Quirk told the Glens Falls Post Star newspaper as he paced up and down the lakeside walkway near his business.
The congressman who represents the area, Rep. John Sweeney (news, bio, voting record), told reporters after speaking to survivors at the hospital: "It could have been worse. People on the shore and boats in the water were involved. They saved an awful lot of lives."
Sweeney said officials were going to look into why the passengers were not wearing life jackets and whether there were too many people on the boat.
"We will thoroughly investigate this and ensure that this tragedy never happens again," he said.
State Sen. Betty Little said: "People are in shock. we're going to get grief counselors for them. We're going to do everything we can. This is an enormous tragedy and so so sad."