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Published: 11/5/2005

Probe finds no evidence captain was impaired

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. - Federal safety officials said yesterday that the captain of the tour boat that capsized last month on Lake George, killing 20 people, drank the night before the accident, but there was no evidence he was impaired at the helm.

Toxicology tests on Richard Paris, who was piloting the Ethan Allen when it overturned the afternoon of Oct. 2, were negative for alcohol and drugs, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The results were released as the NTSB investigates why the boat carrying 47 people capsized on a clear, calm day. All of those killed were from Ohio or southeast Michigan.

The total weight aboard the boat and how it was distributed have emerged as possible causes of the capsizing. The boat was certified for up to 50 people, but officials say that was based on obsolete weight guidelines.

The NTSB said a urine test detected ethyl glucuronide, which can confirm the consumption of alcohol up to 80 hours earlier. Since Mr. Paris gave the sample two days after the Sunday accident, the 80-hour window stretches back to early Saturday morning.

Dr. Michael Feldman of Northwest Toxicology said the chemical's presence in the urine only indicates that alcohol was consumed within an 80-hour window, not how much or when it was consumed.

"It doesn't answer the question whether he was impaired, whether he could have been impaired. As an expert I'd have to say, 'I don't know,'‚óŹ" Dr. Feldman said.

Mr. Paris told safety board investigators he had consumed alcohol the night before the accident , the NTSB reported yesterday. That's at odds with previously reported information that Mr. Paris told investigators his last drink before the accident was a beer the previous Thursday. However, Warren County Sheriff Larry Cleveland said his office has no record of Mr. Paris making that claim.

Mr. Paris, 74, was not given drug or alcohol tests immediately after the accident. Sheriff Cleveland has said police lacked a reasonable cause to test Mr. Paris since he showed no signs of impairment during a face-to-face interview.

Sheriff Cleveland said the new information from the NTSB is too vague to be of use in any potential criminal proceedings.



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