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Fatal tour boat accident prompts New York governor to propose new oversight

ALBANY, NEW YORK (AP) – Governor Kathy Hochul said on Friday she wants the state to have regulatory authority over boats that operate in caves and similar waterways following a fatal tour boat accident in an underground water tunnel off the Erie Canal.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation regulates commercial boats, Hochul’s office said, but lacks authority to inspect those operating on non-navigable waters, like in the privately owned Lockport Cave. The governor will propose legislation to close that loophole, her office said.

Earlier this week, a 65-year-old man died and nearly a dozen other passengers were taken to hospitals, mostly with minor injuries, when a flat-bottom boat with 29 people aboard flipped while inside the historic, human-made cavern system in western New York.

After the June 12 accident at the Lockport Cave, a human services agency confirmed that a similar incident had occurred during a 2015 outing for clients and staff.

“As we mourn the loss of life resulting from the boat crash in the Lockport Caves, my administration is proposing legislation to prevent future tragedies,” Hochul said in a statement.

“The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has the tools to keep us safe and this legislation will ensure they have the legal authority to use these to keep passengers safe on boats in caves”.

Tour Guide Kyle Burkwit leads a group on a tour of the Lockport Caves in Lockport, New York, United States. PHOTO: AP