Guilty pleas in fatal N.Y. boating accident

Investigators prepare to examine the tour boat Ethan Allen on Oct. 6, 2005, as it is pulled from Lake George.Jim Mcknight / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A cruise line and the captain of a boat that capsized on Lake George, killing 20 elderly tourists, pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge.

Shoreline Cruises and Capt. Richard Paris pleaded guilty to not having enough crew members aboard the Ethan Allen tour boat when it overturned during a fall foliage cruise on Oct. 2, 2005, throwing its passengers into the cold water of the Adirondack Mountain lake.

Paris was the only crew member aboard; state navigation law required at least two for the 47 passengers that day.

Warren County Judge John Hall fined both Paris and the company the maximum $250. Paris also agreed to serve more than 200 hours of community service in lieu of 15 days in jail.

District Attorney Kate Hogan had said a more serious charge of criminal negligence was not supportable because there was not enough evidence to show the operators knew the boat would capsize.

Paris said he was eager to get the whole situation behind him. "It's over," he said outside court.

James Quirk, Shoreline Cruises' owner, declined to comment.

At least nine civil lawsuits are pending over the drownings. Nineteen of the victims were from Michigan and one was from Ohio.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board believe the 40-foot boat was rocked by a wake produced by on or more passing boats. A grand jury heard conflicting testimony from survivors — some said there was no wake, others said it was 6 to 8 inches.

The federal board concluded last year that the boat was dangerously unstable and should have carried only a quarter of the passengers onboard.

The Ethan Allen was certified to carry 48 passengers plus two crew, according to weight limits that have since been modified. There were 48 people on the boat _ including Paris _ when it capsized, but federal investigators said the boat should not have been certified to carry that many people.

The boat's passenger capacity was calculated when it was manufactured in 1966, but modifications over the years made it less stable and its capacity should have been slashed to 14 people, the NTSB reported.