1 dead after tour boat capsizes inside Erie Canal water tunnel cave in western New York

by Michael Nguyen
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One person was killed and several others were injured after a tour boat capsized inside the Erie Canal water tunnel cave in western New York. The incident occurred during a tour of a historic underground cavern system in Lockport, which was originally constructed to transport water from the Erie Canal for industrial purposes.

The boat, operated by Lockport Cave Tours, was carrying 29 people when it overturned near the end of the 300-foot route, plunging everyone into water that was approximately 5 to 6 feet deep. Some passengers managed to swim to safety, while rescue crews using an inflatable boat saved around 16 individuals. Unfortunately, one person became trapped beneath the overturned boat and lost their life.

The underground boat ride takes visitors through a dimly lit tunnel that was carved out in the 19th century. The passengers on board were hospitality workers from Niagara County who were participating in a familiarization tour organized by Destination Niagara USA.

Rescue efforts involved breaching a wall with a sledgehammer to access the tunnel, and some passengers were found on top of the boat’s upturned hull when rescuers arrived. Eleven people, including the deceased person’s wife, were transported to hospitals with mostly minor injuries.

The incident raised questions about safety measures, as none of the passengers were equipped with life preservers. It remains unclear whether life preservers were required or provided by the tour operator. The company in charge of the tours has not yet commented on the incident.

Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman expressed sadness over the tragic event and announced that the attraction would be closed during the investigation. The cave and canal where the incident occurred are private properties, and authorities are seeking answers regarding the circumstances that led to the capsizing.

Footage from the scene showed injured passengers being loaded into ambulances, while others were escorted to a bus in white towels amidst rainy weather.

The water tunnel in Lockport has gained some notoriety in the past, even being featured on the Syfy network show “Ghost Hunters.”

This report was contributed to by Jennifer Peltz in New York City and Michael Hill in Albany, from Big Big News.

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