LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — One person died and several others were injured after a Lockport Cave & Underground tour boat capsized while inside the cave, Lockport officials announced.
Officials said there were 28 adults and one staff person on the boat when it became unbalanced and capsized around 11:20 a.m. Monday.
“The boat did a 180-degree turn, so the bottom of the boat was upright in the water,” Lockport Fire Chief Luca Quagliano said at a news conference. “A number of victims were on top of that boat initially when rescuers got to them.”
The victim was identified by Lockport police on Tuesday as 65-year-old Harshad Shah of Niagara Falls. Officials believed he got trapped under the boat. His wife was also onboard the boat and has been hospitalized. According to his obituary, Shah served as the president of the Budget Host Inn in Niagara Falls for “many years.”
On Tuesday, a notice was placed on the door of the Lockport Cave from the City of Lockport, saying that the tunnel area of the structure has been deemed unsafe due to electrical issues. It is unclear how long it will remain closed. Sources tell News 4 that this is a secondary investigation to the criminal investigation stemming from the boat capsize.
Eleven people were taken to hospitals with hypothermia and what officials called relatively minor injuries. Roughly 16 people were rescued by first responders thanks in part to an inflatable boat, while 12 others were tall enough to be able to walk out of the water — which was estimated to be around 60 degrees — due to it being shallower.
Additionally, a Lockport police officer was hospitalized with hypothermia due to his rescue efforts that involved entering the water to assist as many people as possible.
It took roughly an hour to rescue every person who was on the boat, according to officials, and nobody aboard was wearing a life jacket. In order to assist with rescue operations, crews breached a wall of the cave from the outside using sledgehammers and crowbars.
The cause of how the boat capsized is still under investigation. The 28 people onboard came as part of a Destination Niagara USA tour and they were all from the Western New York area.
The streets surrounding Lockport Cave are currently closed, and OSHA and other New York State agencies are on site as part of the investigation.
A News 4 photographer on the scene reported seeing numerous adults being loaded onto stretchers draped in towels.
Tours have been conducted inside the cave system since 1977, but the cave system itself dates back around 150 years. The water in the cave itself can be roughly 4 to 6 feet deep, according to a 2021 News 4 story about the cave.
The full press conference held by Lockport officials can be viewed below.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.
- ‘Refs had it out for us’: Chiefs lash out at officials after losing to Bills
- Man accused of stabbing Panda Express worker over food quality in Missouri
- Photos: Bighorn sheep gets stuck on roof of home in Colorado
- Giuliani to face Georgia poll workers as defamation case heads to trial
- Mama June says daughter Anna ‘Chickadee’ Cardwell has died at 29