National News

Tragedy in Schoharie grim reminder of Ethan Allen

Posted October 8, 2018 7:19 a.m. EDT

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. _ The revelation Sunday that 20 people died when a limousine crashed in Schoharie on Saturday afternoon drew comparisons to the sinking of the Ethan Allen, the tour boat that went down in Lake George and killed the same number of people.

Like the crash in Schoharie, the Oct. 2, 2005, tragedy on Lake George took place as many were flooding into tourist spots and rural gems in upstate New York to enjoy the fall foliage season.

The Ethan Allen capsized, sending 47 passengers and its captain into the lake. Twenty passengers, many of them vacationers from Michigan, drowned. Three other passengers suffered major injuries, and six passengers had minor injuries.

In Lake George, Saturday's crash triggered instant memories of the Ethan Allen.

"When the shock wore off, there was a lot of finger pointing," Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said.

Lawsuits were filed in connection with the ship's foundering, and it took years for the legal cases to be resolved.

The vacationers were on the water to see the spectacular fall colors on the trees that cover the mountains that surround Lake George.

The boat's captain, Richard Paris, and 18 other passengers were uninjured.

Blais said the most important thing the village did was build a memorial to the victims even though they were from out of the area. He said they wanted to show respect toward the victims and their families. Blais said it also helped pull together the village, which is filled with local residents as well as business owners from outside the area.

On the 10th anniversary, a wreath was placed at the memorial. The mayor said ongoing remembrances have helped the village deal with the tragedy.

"It was quite a thing but a way of showing we will never forget," said Blais, who added he still hears from relatives of those who died on the boat.

In a report issued in July 2006, the National Transportation Safety Board said the boat was overloaded with passengers when it capsized.

The crash was the region's most recent major disaster but it was not unique.

On Aug. 28, 2006, the bus driver and four other people were killed when a Greyhound bus en route from New York City to Montreal hit an embankment on the Northway near Exit 31 in Westport, Essex County. Seventeen people died and 36 were injured on March 3, 1972 when a Mohawk Airlines flight crashed into a home on Edgewood Avenue in Albany. The explosion of a propane truck killed 10 people on July 25, 1962 in the eastern Rensselaer County hamlet of Berlin. The Sept. 16, 1953 crash of an American Airlines plane into the WPTR broadcast towers killed all 28 aboard.

The NTSB is investigating the Schoharie crash, which occurred about 1:55 p.m. Saturday. An SUV-style limousine crashed at the intersection of routes 30 and 30A, where the Apple Barrel Country Store is located. On Saturday, it was packed with people enjoying the day's mild temperatures.

Sometimes, it takes a tragedy for a community to show its heart, Blais said.