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21 die as tour boat capsizes

| Monday, Oct. 3, 2005

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. -- A glass-enclosed boat carrying tourists on a senior citizens' cruise overturned Sunday on a calm, chilly lake in upstate New York, killing at least 21 people and sending more than two dozen cold and wet 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 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 a life jacket in New York.

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 some complained of shortness of breath. Five people were to be admitted, hospital spokesman Jason White said.

Police investigators were at the hospital late yesterday.

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.

The boat had a maximum capacity of 50 people; it was carrying as many as 49.

The sheriff said there was still confusion over the number of passengers, and investigators were interviewing survivors to get a solid count. The National Transportation Safety Board was expected at the lake today.

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.

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."

"Nothing of this magnitude has ever happened," state police Superintendent Wayne Bennett said. "It's unprecedented."

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.

Cleveland said the captain, who was well-known and well-liked by law enforcement officials, survived. He was the only crew member aboard.

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