Lake George commemorates tour boat tragedy

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(Host) A year ago today a tour boat carrying 47 sightseers capsized on Lake George. Twenty people died, most of them senior citizens from Michigan.

On Sunday the town of Lake George unveiled a monument to commemorate the tragedy.

VPR’s Susan Keese was there.

(Keese) More than seventy family members and survivors accepted the invitation to travel from Michigan for the dedication.

Jeanne Siler was on the Ethan Allen tour boat when it capsized. She says it wasn’t easy coming back.

(Siler) “I wanted to turn around and go back a couple times, and … I’ve got my daughters with me. They’ve been pushing me along. I had to do this, I had to come, but as I got closer to that water I just started reliving the whole thing you know.”

(Keese) Lake George Town Supervisor Lou Tessier was among the many citizens and officials who helped at the scene.

(Tessier) “I don’t know it may be some closure for some people. It’s hard though, cause you think about it all the time.”

(The sound of bagpipes)

(Keese) The day was dark and wet, not at all like the sunny Sunday last year when the tragedy occurred. But the rain stopped for an afternoon procession from a local church to the Lake.

There a new granite monument looks out over the water. It’s embellished with a bronze anchor and an apple blossom, the Michigan state flower.

Lake George Mayor Robert Blais officiated.

(Blais) “These wonderful folks have returned to pay tribute to those who have perished. Some lost their fathers, their mothers, their grandfathers their fathers, some their husbands and some their wives. Others survived that terrible day and had the strength and the courage to come back and return to Lake George with us. We are here now today to dedicate this monument to you.”

(Keese) Also at the ceremony was Gerald Brown. He’s the mayor of Trenton Michigan, where the ill-fated bus tour began. He thanked the Lake George community.

(Brown) “We understand it was an accident. And I guess after today we hope that life does go on.”

(Keese) Rob Rachowiak was one of 20 people in his family who made the trip. His mother Joyce was one of those who were trapped beneath the boat.

(Rachowiak) “Looking at the lake and just knowing it’s calm and everybody’s nice here and everything. It’s really not going to change anything. But I think its makes it a little bit easier.”

(Keese) But the story is far from over for the many people who have filed lawsuits. And the Warren County District Attorney is still deciding whether criminal or other charges are in order in connection with the case.

The National Transportation Safety Board says the Ethan Allen was seriously overcrowded when it tipped. The NTSB says it should have been licensed for 14 passengers instead of 50.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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