LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — The recent tragedy at the Lockport Cave has people asking: who’s supposed to make sure the attraction is safe?
“I’m very disappointed that the state is now coming forward to do their due diligence when it should’ve been done many years ago,” Bob Pecoraro, a passenger on the boat that capsized on June 12.
Gov. Kathy Hochul and State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt are trying to answer that question. In a statement, Gov. Hochul said she is proposing a law that would put the State Office of Parks and Rec in charge of commercial tourism boats and caves. Sen. Ortt agrees.
“This will be specifically for man-made geological man-made boat attractions and man-made waterways and it will fall under the Department of Parks and Recreation,” Sen. Ortt added.
“The loophole was it was private water and they only monitor boats on public water, but it makes sense for them to be the ones because they inspect boats that take on public passengers,” City of Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman continued.
Pecoraro was a passenger on the boat when it capsized just a few weeks ago, sending nearly a dozen people to the hospital and killing Harshad Shah. He says there were no safety precautions in place.
“There was no safety briefing. There were no life preservers available and it could’ve been a bigger tragedy if we had young children on board that boat,” Pecoraro explained.
Last week, News 4 Investigates reported there had never been an inspection at the Lockport Cave Tours, but it was a major concern when it opened in the 1970s. Mayor Roman encourages residents and visitors alike to still take advantage of all of the attractions Lockport has to offer.
Mayor Roman says she was unaware of any safety problems before June 12 and says she did not know a similar incident happened in 2015 with a group of teens from Our Lady of Victory.
“I did it when it first became in ’77 with my grandma and I’ve never had any issues or heard of any, personally, until this incident,” Mayor Roman concluded.
Right now, a City of Lockport inspection report still hangs on the doors of the cave tour building. It will remain closed until those problems are fixed and until police are done with their investigation.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.