Here is the Executive Summary:
NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD
Public Meeting of July 25, 2006
(Information subject to editing)
Report of Marine Accident Report
Capsizing of New York State-Certificated Vessel
Lake George, New York, October 2, 2005
This is a synopsis from the Safety Board’s report and does not include the Board’s rationale for the conclusions, probable cause, and safety recommendations. Safety Board staff is currently making final revisions to the report from which the attached conclusions and safety recommendations have been extracted. The final report and pertinent safety recommendation letters will be distributed to recommendation recipients as soon as possible. The attached information is subject to further review and editing.
On the afternoon of October 2, 2005, the New York State-certificated public vessel Ethan Allen, with a New York State-licensed operator and 47 passengers on board, departed the marina at Lake George, New York, for a cruise of the lake. The vessel proceeded northbound along the western side of the lake at an estimated speed of 8 mph. As it neared Cramer Point, the operator began a turn to the right. At the same time, the Ethan Allen encountered a wave or waves generated by one or more vessels on its starboard side. Within a few seconds, the Ethan Allen rolled to port and overturned. It began to sink several minutes later. Operators of recreational vessels nearby observed the accident, proceeded immediately to the site, and began rescuing survivors. The operator and 18 passengers survived without injury. Three passengers received serious injuries, 6 received minor injuries, and 20 received fatal injuries in the accident. The resulting damage to the vessel and its components was estimated at $21,000.
The Safety Board’s investigation of this accident identified the following major safety issues:
- Stability standards and procedures for passenger vessels;
- New York State’s use of manufacturer’s capacity plates to determine public vessel passenger loading; and
- Regulation of New York State’s public vessels.
As a result of this investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard and to the State of New York.
- Weather conditions were not a factor in this accident.
- The attempt of the Ethan Allen operator to turn the vessel into the on-coming wake before the capsizing was a normal reaction to the circumstances, but not timely enough to be effective.
- Operator fatigue was not a factor in this accident.
- Because drug and alcohol testing of the Ethan Allen operator as not done in a timely manner, the toxicological analysis was inconclusive.
- The Ethan Allen’s hull structure and steering and propulsion components were not factors in the accident.
- At the time of the accident, the bilge might have contained, at most, an insignificant amount of water which would not have affected the Ethan Allen’s stability.
- The addition, and subsequent modification, of a canopy changed the Ethan Allen’s stability characteristics.
- Although U.S. Coast Guard regulations and New York State’s guidance to vessel owners did not contain clear requirements pertaining to testing after modifications, the Double Dolphin/Ethan Allen should have undergone a stability reassessment after each canopy installation and modification.
- Because the Double Dolphin/Ethan Allen did not undergo stability assessments after the addition and modification of its canopies, it was certificated to carry too many passengers. The certificate of inspection permitted 48 passengers, but stability criteria should have limited the number to 14 passengers.
- Although it was the Ethan Allen that was involved in this accident, the potential for capsizing was substantially the same for the de Champlain.
- The combination of too many passengers, as permitted by the Ethan Allen’s inappropriate certificate of inspection, and the use of an out-of-date average weight standard for passengers on public vessels resulted in the Ethan Allen carrying a load that significantly reduced its stability, which made it more susceptible to capsizing on the day of the accident.
- The Ethan Allen capsized as a result of insufficient stability, which made it unable to right itself from the combined forces of a passing wave or waves, a sharp turn, and the resulting involuntary shift of passengers to the port side of the vessel.
- New York State’s reliance on manufacturers’ capacity plate data to determine maximum passenger limits on public vessels carrying more than six passengers for hire is an inappropriate use of the Coast Guard noncommercial boat standard.
- New York State public vessel operators do not have a simple and ready means such as a mark on the hull to determine whether their vessels are overloaded.
- For almost all of the passengers, survivability was not adversely affected by the presence of preexisting medical conditions.
- The emergency response was timely and effective.
- The postaccident actions of New York State to improve the level of safety of public vessels were prompt and, if implemented, will address issues identified in the accident investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the capsizing of the Ethan Allen was the vessel’s insufficient stability to resist the combined forces of a passing wave or waves, a sharp turn, and the resulting involuntary shift of passengers to the port side of the vessel. The vessel’s stability was insufficient because it carried 48 persons where postaccident stability calculations demonstrated that it should have been permitted to carry only 14 persons. Contributing to the cause of the accident was the failure to reassess the vessel’s stability after it had been modified because there was no clear requirement to do so.
As a result of its investigation of the Ethan Allen accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations:
To the U.S. Coast Guard:
- Provide guidance to States on U.S. Coast Guard standards for and assessment of stability of small passenger vessels. (M-06-XX)
To New York State:
- Address safety deficiencies identified in the investigation of the Ethan Allen accident and issue technical guidance to vessel owners on inspection requirements for modified vessels, stability assessments and criteria, means for determining maximum safe load condition, drug and alcohol testing, manning, and safety briefings. (M-06-XX)
- Discontinue the use of capacity plate data associated with the U.S. Coast Guard’s noncommercial boating standards for determining passenger loading on public vessels that carry more than six passengers and adopt the U.S. Coast Guard’s small passenger vessel inspection standards. (M-06-XX)
The report and web cast are available here.
Meanwhile, the ship owner continues to deny its negligence.
Defendants accused in the overturning of a boat that killed 20 elderly tourists last year on an Adirondack lake in New York argued in court papers they weren't at fault and the accident was caused by events beyond their control....
Attorneys for Shoreline Cruises and Captain Richard Paris deny any negligence, pointing instead to "an unforeseeable sudden emergency'' or to "an act of God.''
"It's our position that there was a wake that swamped the boat,'' said Fred Zinober, attorney for the company and captain. Paris told sheriff's investigators the same thing. The Ethan Allen was under its passenger limit of 50, had cruised before fully loaded and went out hundreds of times since it was modified and never had problems, he said.
As reported at The Insurance Journal.
Suit blames Coast Guard in Ethan Allen capsizing. Scarano Boat Building cites federal government's approval of boat's capacity
Add the United States Coast Guard to the list of those who might be to blame for the capsizing of the Ethan Allen and the deaths of 20 senior citizens. That's what attorneys for Scarano Boat Building have done in U.S. District Court by suing the U.S. government to hold the Coast Guard responsible for its 1966 approval of the Ethan Allen to carry 50 passengers.
As reported at timesunion.com
Ethan Allen Owners Say Accident Was “Act of God”
Shoreline Cruises Inc. of Lake George and boat captain Richard Paris are claiming that the accident which claimed the lives of 20 senior citizens last October on Lake George was an “act of God” and could not have been prevented....Also named as a defendant is Scarano Boat Building Inc. of Saratoga Springs which performed modifications to the Ethan Allen, replacing a canvas top with a heavier fiberglass canopy. Scarano also installed plexiglass windows around the boat which may have added to the instability.
The NTSB is continuing its investigation into the cause of the accident and expects to release a preliminary report in the coming weeks.
As reported in The North Country Gazette.