LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. -- A tour boat that capsized on a New York lake, killing 20 people, did not have the required number of crew members aboard, leading state regulators to suspend licenses for all five vessels belonging to the company that operated the tour, officials said yesterday.
The Ethan Allen, which overturned Sunday on Lake George while carrying 47 elderly tourists, was required by state boating regulations to have two crew members, said Wendy Gibson, spokeswoman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
Any commercial boat that carries 21 to 48 passengers must have two crew members, she said.
Authorities have said the only crew member aboard was Captain Richard Paris.
The passengers aboard the boat were sitting on long benches and slid sharply to one side of the vessel just before it overturned, authorities said yesterday.
Wayne Bennett, State Police superintendent, said investigators do not know what initially caused the Ethan Allen to tip. But he said passengers either slid or were thrown to one side of the boat after it began lurching.
''And that, of course, would automatically mean an even bigger shift of weight," Bennett said.
Paris told authorites that the 40-foot glass-enclosed boat was hit by waves from at least one other vessel and turned over as he tried to steer out of them, authorities said. The boat flipped so fast that none of the passengers -- most of them from Michigan -- could put on a life jacket. New York state regulations require that life jackets be made available for every person on a boat, but people do not have to wear them.
There was no immediate confirmation that another boat that could have churned up waves was in the area, and survivors were giving investigators differing versions of what happened before the boat went down in calm, sunny weather, authorities said.
Eight people were hospitalized with shortness of breath, broken bones, and other injuries.
Yesterday afternoon, crews using inflatable bags raised the sunken vessel 70 feet to the surface. They planned to pump it out and tow it to shore. National Transportation Safety Board investigators will then examine the boat.
Mark Rosenker, acting chairman of the NTSB, said investigators would focus on such things as the history of the boat, the pilot's record, and whether the number of passengers played a role in the accident.
US Representative John Sweeney, a New York Republican, said investigators are looking at whether there was too much weight on board the boat, even though the vessel was just below its capacity of 50 people. He said the Coast Guard assumes a weight of 150 pounds per person in calculating a vessel's capacity -- an assumption he said may have been off the mark.
A survivor, 76-year-old old Jeane Siler of Trenton, Mich., said she saw a wake coming and that the boat turned into it. She said she stood up and was either thrown or jumped into the water, where she was surrounded by other passengers. She suffered broken bones in her spine, a broken finger, and bumps on her head.
Virgil Chambers, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, an organization for recreational boaters, said investigators would probably examine how weight was distributed within the boat.
''If all the people were on one side, maybe to look at something, and if the operator were to take the boat over a wave at a particular angle, it could cause the boat to roll," Chambers said.
The boat was inspected in May and no problems were found, state officials said.
Hundreds of boats were on the long, narrow lake, about 50 miles north of Albany in the Adirondack Mountains, Sunday afternoon, causing ''a lot of wave action," Cleveland said.
When the Ethan Allen went over, people from nearby boats converged to try to rescue victims. Witnesses described a chaotic scene as the older victims, some of whom used walkers, cried out.
''The boat was sideways in the water, and people were screaming," said Joanne Rahal, who was in a boat when the Ethan Allen flipped. ''Bodies were floating by our boat."
A woman who answered the door at Paris's house and identified herself as the captain's wife said he was out of the house and would have no comment.
Only Colorado, Indiana, and New Hampshire require adults to wear life preservers when a boat is motion, said Melissa Savage of the National Conference of State Legislatures.