The boat, which can safely accommodate up to 40 people, became unbalanced at the end of its course, Chief Quagliano said. At that point, everyone on board — 28 passengers and one crew member — was thrown into the water, which was about 60 degrees and more than six feet deep in places.
The half-mile-long cave where the boat capsized is adjacent to the Erie Canal. A remnant of Western New York’s industrial past, it was created in the 19th century as a canal spillway and opened as a tourist attraction in the 1970s.
Lockport Mayor Michelle Roman said it was the first death there since then, as long as anyone could remember.
Near the Lockport Cave offices Monday afternoon, firefighters, police and New York State Police formed a human wall around people who appeared to have been rescued from the boat, many of them covered in white towels. As ambulances stopped nearby, some of the tour group got back on a bus, which eventually took off.
Ashley Kandel of Victor, NY, was among the audience. She said she and her husband, Tarek, were scheduled to go on a caving trip at 2 p.m., and when they got to the cave early in the morning, she realized something might have gone wrong.
The couple encountered numerous fire engines and noticed streets in the area blocked off, Ms Kandel said. She said she called the Lockport Cavs to ask about the unusual traffic, but no one answered.
“We’re going to face the fear of the underground,” Ms. Kandel said, describing part of the couple’s motivation for taking the tour.