21 dead as boat overturns on Lake George
Twenty-one people were killed when a small tour boat carrying 49 people flipped over Sunday on a lake in upstate New York, the county sheriff told The Associated Press.
The tour boat was carrying a tour group from Canada, Warren County Sheriff Larry Cleveland said. Initial reports said the passengers were part of a senior citizen's cruise.
Cleveland said it appears the accident happened so fast, none of the passengers was able to put on a life jacket.
"I don't believe anyone had time to put on a personal flotation device," he said.
The 40-foot, glass-enclosed Ethan Allen flipped at 2:55 p.m. on Lake George about 50 miles north of Albany in the Adirondack Mountains.
The weather was clear, calm and in the 70s Sunday afternoon.
"This was as calm as it gets," said Jerry Thornell, a Marion, Mass., resident who has a summer home in nearby Bolton. Thornell is a former Lake George Park Commission patrol officer and was a lake enforcement officer for the county sheriff's department. "The weather is not a factor."'
Thornell said he could remember no other disaster like the Ethan Allen.
Representatives of Shoreline Cruises, which operates the boat, could not immediately be reached for comment.
By 5 p.m., all the passengers had been accounted for, Cleveland said. The Ethan Allen lay at the bottom of the lake in 70 feet of water.
Cleveland said the captain, who was well known by law enforcement and well liked, survived. He was the only crew member aboard.
Several police boats were on the water and there were at least half a dozen divers in the lake near a small cove on the west side of the lake about 5 miles north of Village of Lake George.
The water was 68 degrees. Patrol boats that reached the scene within minutes found other boaters already pulling people from the water.
Police were investigating whether a large passing tour boat created a wake that caused the accident.
The 20 dead were laid out along the shore and the scene was blocked off by police with a tarps. Cleveland said a language barrier was slowing the process of notifying the victims' families.
"Nothing of this magnitude has ever happened," said New York State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett. "It's unprecedented."