Capsized boat was too full

October 06, 2005|By ERROL A. COCKFIELD JR. | ERROL A. COCKFIELD JR.,NEWSDAY

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. -- The tour boat that sank Sunday, killing 20 passengers, should not have been carrying 48 people even though it was licensed to sail with that number, the lead investigator into the tragedy said yesterday.

Stability tests of a virtually identical sister vessel, de Champlain, failed to meet Coast Guard safety standards when officials loaded its deck with water-filled barrels yesterday.

"We had to stop the test at three drums," said Mark Rosenker, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. "It should have been eight drums in order for the vessel to pass."

Since the tour boat Ethan Allen is undergoing cleaning and inspection, officials used the boat's twin. But the evidence confirmed that the Ethan Allen, christened in 1966 and grandfathered when the Coast Guard later standardized weight requirements, was overloaded when it turned into a wake and capsized. Officials are also investigating if alterations to the boat's canopy added to its instability.

As the investigation rolled on yesterday, officials said blood and urine taken from the boat's captain, Richard Paris, would show whether he had been drinking for up to 80 hours before he gave the samples Tuesday morning. That period would include the time the boat overturned, around 3 p.m. Sunday.

Gov. George E. Pataki said he would propose legislation that would require operators on state waters to undergo drug and alcohol tests after a fatal boating incident. State law does not require boat operators to go through such tests.

Errol A. Cockfield Jr. writes for Newsday.

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