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Published: Saturday, 6/23/2007

Ex-federal investigator says probe fell short


LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. - A man who initially led the federal investigation of the Ethan Allen tourist-boat capsizing claims the final result was not thorough and Congress should order the National Transportation Safety Board to reopen the probe.

Robert Ford, the investigator in charge during early stages of the inquiry, said he left the NTSB last year because he was unhappy with how the Ethan Allen case was handled, according to the Post-Star of Glens Falls.

The 40-foot boat flipped on Lake George in the Adirondacks, killing 20 elderly tourists - 19 from Bedford Township and other parts of Michigan, one from Toledo - on a 2005 tour.

According to the final report, 47 passengers and the captain were dumped when excess weight caused the boat to capsize, most likely after it was struck by a wake. The board concluded that modifications over the years made the boat dangerously unstable and that it should have carried only a quarter of the passengers on board.

Mr. Ford said the NTSB concentrated on the wake theory despite conflicting testimony and ignored evidence, particularly about the raw-water coolant pump. He believes it leaked significant amounts of water into the hull, affecting stability. The agency concluded after testing the pump it wasn't a significant contributor to the accident.

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