On Monday, a boat carrying hospitality workers collapsed during a tour of a historic underground cavern system created to carry water from the Erie Canal beneath the city of Lockport in western New York, officials said. One person was killed when they became trapped beneath the overturned vessel.
When the flat-bottomed boat operated by Lockport Cave Tours fell over near the end of the roughly 300-foot journey, all 29 people on board were propelled into water between 5 feet and 6 feet deep. The trips include a boat ride through a tunnel dug out in the 19th century to carry canal water, which was used as an industrial power source at the time, underground.
After being thrown into the water, some passengers were able to swim to shore. According to Lockport’s fire chief, Luca Quagliano, 16 other people were rescued by rescue workers using an inflatable boat. Jeremy Swiatowy, 42, observed as rescuers smashed through the tunnel’s wall with a sledgehammer and squirmed into the tube to reach those inside.
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“The water in the caves is super cold,” he said. Quagliano stated at a news conference that when rescuers arrived at the boat, several of the passengers were perched above the hull. The deceased man’s identity was not immediately released by authorities. His wife was sent to the emergency room.
The fire chief reported that eleven persons were sent to hospitals, most of them with non-life threatening injuries. According to Andrea Czopp, the chief operating officer of Destination Niagara USA, all of the passengers were hospitality workers from various locations across Niagara County.
She explained that the trip was part of a familiarization tour organized by the organization. The custom motorboat can accommodate up to 40 passengers in rows of around four each, according to the authorities. The boat has roughly two or three feet of clearance from the cave walls on either side during the journey.
The authorities said that nobody aboard the ship was wearing a life vest. It wasn’t made clear if they were optional or mandatory. When reached via phone and email for comment, the tour firm did not immediately respond.
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The attraction, which is located approximately 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of Niagara Falls, has been open since the mid-1970s, according to Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman. Until the investigation is complete, it will stay closed. “This is very sad for everybody,” she said.
The cave and canal, according to Police Chief Steven Abbott, are privately owned. “We have a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said. A woman can be heard on video speaking to someone as she is taken into an ambulance outside of the Lockport Cave office.
While it steadily rained, others were being led to a bus while wrapped in white towels. The water tunnel was featured in an episode of the Syfy show “Ghost Hunters.”
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