Blagojevich orders review of tour boat safety in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD—In the wake of the tragic boating accident in New York, Sunday, Oct. 2, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich directed the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to immediately review tour boat operations and regulations in Illinois to make sure the state is doing everything necessary to keep passengers safe.

The governor directed the IDNR to report back to him in 30 days with any recommended changes to the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act. The department will examine several areas of the law, including the placement of life jackets, passenger/crew ratio, passenger seating and other safety requirements.

“With at least 11 companies offering boat tours of Lake Michigan or the Chicago River, I want to make sure a tragedy like what happened last weekend in New York doesn’t happen in Illinois,” Blagojevich said. “I am directing the DNR to immediately evaluate the causes of the Lake George tragedy and to take any action necessary to protect passengers on Illinois tour boats.”

The Ethan Allen, a 40-foot glass-enclosed tour boat carrying 47 elderly passengers, overturned Oct. 2 on Lake George. Reports indicate the boat capsized so quickly, none of the passengers had enough time to get to the life preservers on board. Authorities confirmed 20 people died in the accident.

Because the IDNR is responsible for licensing all boats in Illinois, the department will evaluate the following:

Placement of personal flotation devices, or life jackets, in relation to passenger seating;

Increased safety requirements for senior citizens and people with disabilities;

Appropriate passenger-to-crew ratios;

Placement and attachment of seating to prevent sudden shifts in weight; and

Frequency and scope of safety inspections.

“The Lake George tragedy highlights the need to constantly evaluate our safety requirements for tour boats, and strengthen them as necessary,” said IDNR Director Joel Brunsvold. “During the next 30 days, we will evaluate all of our safety policies and make sure they cover everything necessary to protect all passengers on Illinois tour boats.”

If indicated by the National Transportation Safety Board report, Blagojevich will direct the Department of Natural Resources to undertake a comprehensive review of the Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act.

From the Oct. 12-18, 2005, issue

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