A man and a woman from California died after an airboat carrying 16 tourists overturned in a Louisiana swamp, authorities said Sunday. Three other passengers remained hospitalized.
Daniel Nanna, 31, of Newport Beach, Calif., died just before midnight Saturday, about seven hours after the Louisiana Swamp Tours boat overturned in three feet of water. An autopsy is planned, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Col. John Fortunato said Sunday.
Tsai Woo died of her injuries Sunday afternoon; her husband had flown in and was at her bedside, said Diane Angelico, spokeswoman for Charity Hospital. Woo’s hometown in California was not released.
Eleven other people were injured when the boat — a flat-bottomed aluminum craft powered by a big fan at the rear — flipped in a swamp around Lake Salvador, about 20 miles south of New Orleans. Tourists flock to the area to see wildlife, including alligators, which often are lured to boats by dangling chicken meat from long poles.
The captain, Curtis Silver of Lafitte, was among eight people treated and released at emergency rooms.
The Coast Guard was investigating the accident.
Lt. Cmdr. Greg Depinet of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety office wouldn’t comment Sunday on whether the captain had been making quick maneuvers to thrill tourists from nearby Kenner and from California.
“We still haven’t totally confirmed what was taking place,” he said. “We have quite a few more passengers to interview before we can comment.”
Depinet said reports so far indicated that all passengers had been buckled in, meaning the accident wasn’t caused by tourists clustering to one side to look at an alligator or other animal.
The Swamp King is one of four 16-passenger airboats owned by Louisiana Swamp Tours, which boasts on its Web site that the airboats, made to run on inches of water, “are half ride and half tour” and “can make a 90-degree turn on a dime.”
Louisiana Swamp Tours owner Milton Walker Jr. was leading a tour Sunday and could not be reached for comment, an employee said.
“I’ve always felt as though we’ve been safe in operation,” Walker said Saturday night. “I never thought something like this could happen.”
The Coast Guard-certified tour boat was operated by a licensed captain, Walker said. The boat, rated for up to 18 people, had a top speed of 35 mph but cannot go that fast when fully loaded, he said.