Saratoga County

Settlement reached in Ethan Allen boat disaster lawsuits

A court settlement has been reached with a tour boat operator on behalf of nine survivors and 20 tou

A court settlement has been reached with a tour boat operator on behalf of nine survivors and 20 tourists killed when their boat overturned on an Adirondack lake in 2005.

The settlement ends claims against Shoreline Cruises Inc., its affiliate Quirks Marine Rentals and boat captain Richard Paris, according to lawyers and court documents. The terms of the deal are confidential. Claims continue against the tour operator, a boat builder and another company whose tour boat’s wake was suspected of contributing to the accident.

The 40-foot Ethan Allen carried 47 passengers and the captain when it suddenly tipped over in clear, sunny weather on Oct. 2, 2005, sending screaming tourists into Lake George. Nineteen of those killed were from Michigan and one was from Ohio.

“Under the circumstances we’re satisfied with the settlement and we’re going to continue to press forward against the other parties,” James Hacker, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said Tuesday.

Those other parties include Scarano Boat Building Inc., which modified the Ethan Allen; Shoreline Travel & Tours Inc., a Canadian firm that organized the leaf-peeping tour; and the Lake George Steamboat Company Inc., whose tour boat Mohican was on Lake George when the Ethan Allen capsized. Calls to their lawyers were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Claims also continue against the state of New York, Hacker said. Shoreline had used the Ethan Allen for several years on inland waterways with its annual inspections and recertification under the jurisdiction of the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.

“My client’s heart goes out to the families and the victims. To the extent that this helps them, that’s what they want to do,” said attorney Frederic Zinober, who represents Shoreline Cruises and its owner, James Quirk. “They were Shoreline passengers. My clients just basically did the right thing from a business, and from their perspective, from a moral perspective.”

Shoreline continues to operate its other tour boats on Lake George.

Attorneys for the various parties filed for dismissal of claims against Shoreline, Quirk and Paris in U.S. District Court in Albany on Monday. The next step is for the federal judge to accept the agreement, Zinober said. Meanwhile, depositions continued Tuesday in remaining claims against the other defendants.

In March 2007, Shoreline and Paris each pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge, admitting there were not enough crew members aboard the Ethan Allen. State navigation law required at least two crewmen, but Paris crewed the boat alone.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board believe the 40-foot boat was rocked by a wake from a passing boat, or multiple boats. The grand jury heard conflicting testimony from survivors — some said there was no wake, others said it was six to eight inches.

The federal board concluded in 2006 that the boat was dangerously unstable because of structural changes done over the years and should have carried fewer passengers, although it was certified to carry 48 passengers plus two crew. State and federal weight limits have since been modified.

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