New York State has attributed the cause of the Lockport Cave tour boat capsize earlier this year, which resulted in one death and several injuries, to faulty floatation devices.
On Monday, the Lockport Police Department disclosed its investigatory files from the Lockport Cave case. This includes a report from the Vessel Incident Analyses Team of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which was brought in by LPD for investigative support.
According to the State Parks report, on June 12, the boat, which was carrying 28 passengers and the boat operator, flipped over in an old hydraulic tunnel, due to it being top heavy and unstable. The incident led to the tragic death of 65-year-old Harshad Shah, president of Budget Host Inn-Niagara Falls, who was trapped beneath the overturned boat. All passengers were local hospitality workers visiting local tourist sites.
The analysis team performed tests on the boat’s flotation devices two days after the accident. The test results indicated the devices were faulty, causing the boat to be at high risk of a rapid capsize to the right.
The report describes the Lockport Cave boat as a handmade, flat-bottomed and rectangular vessel, built from seven flotation devices enclosed in a wooden framework, a plywood deck that could seat up to 36 riders, and powered by two motors, one each at the front and rear.
According to the report, the flotation devices on the right side were defective, due to being pierced by screws which allowed them to fill with water. This resulted in the boat leaning and ultimately flipping to the right.
The state report added that despite company owner, Tom Callahan’s assertions of providing a safety briefing, most passengers attested to not receiving any safety instructions prior to the boat ride. Furthermore, they were not offered life jackets or informed about the presence of any flotation equipment such as a buoy on the boat.