The National Transportation Safety Board today determined 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 post-accident stability calculations demonstrated that it should have been permitted to carry only 14 passengers. 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.
On October 2, 2005, the Ethan Allen, a tour vessel carrying 47 passengers and one crewmember capsized in Lake George, New York. As a result of the accident, 20 passengers died.
"This tragic accident highlights the need for clear requirements to verify a vessel's stability after any modifications are made to the vessel," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker.
In 1964, the Ethan Allen, a 40-foot fiberglass excursion vessel operating under a different name, was certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry 48 passengers and two crewmembers. In 1979, the boat was purchased by Shoreline Cruises, Inc. and relocated from Connecticut to New York where it came under the jurisdiction of the state. New York state officials established the same load restrictions for the vessel as the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1989, an all-wood canopy with Plexiglas windows was installed on the Ethan Allen. The state's file on the vessel contains no record of inspections and/or stability assessments relating to modifications to the boat's canopy between 1979 and 1991.
As a result of the Safety Board's investigation of the accident involving the Ethan Allen, the following recommendations were made:
To the United States Coast Guard:
Provide guidance to the States on U.S. Coast Guard standards for and assessment stability of small passenger vessels.
To New York State:
Address safety deficiencies identified in the investigation of the Ethan Allen accident and issue technical guidance to vessel owners on the inspection requirements for modified vessels, stability assessment and criteria, means for determining maximum safe load conditions, drug and alcohol testing, manning, and safety briefings.
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 Coast Guard small passenger vessel inspection standards.
A synopsis of the Board's report, including the probable cause and recommendations, is available on the Board's website, www.ntsb.gov. The Board's full report will be available on the website in several weeks.