Marine Accident Report

Capsizing of New York State-Certificated Vessel Ethan Allen
Lake George, New York
October 2, 2005

NTSB Number MAR-06/03
NTIS Number PB2006-916403

Executive Summary:

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 about 15 minutes later. Operators of recreational vessels nearby observed the accident, proceeded immediately to the site, and began rescuing survivors. Twenty passengers died, three received serious injuries, and six received minor injuries in the accident. The operator and 18 passengers survived without injury. 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:

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 this investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard and to the State of New York.