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Lawmakers ask Hochul to sign bill for Lockport Cave oversight

All 28 passengers were thrown overboard when a small boat capsized during the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride.
Suha Chowdhury
All 28 passengers were thrown overboard when a small boat capsized during the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride.

One year to the day a boat capsized in the Lockport Cave killing one person and injuring 11 more, Republican lawmakers are urging Governor Kathy Hochul to sign a bill attaching an agency to regularly inspect the attraction.

If signed into legislation the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation would take over the inspections.

One day after the accident the Cave was deemed “unsafe” due to an electrical issue.

The nature of the attraction itself make it hard to define in terms of what agency would handle inspections said State Senator Robert Ortt.

“It's not really an amusement park. It's not a waterway like the [Erie] canal or Niagara River or Lake Ontario,” he said. “So, it doesn't fall into those neat definitions that we have. And that was sort of the blind spot in law because it didn't fall in that definition because there wasn't, as a result of that, an agency that had direct oversight.”

State Senator Robert Ortt (right), Assembly Members Mike Norris (Center) and Angello Morinello at the Erie Canal Discovery Center
Thomas O'Neil-White
/
WBFO News
State Senator Robert Ortt (right), Assembly Members Mike Norris (Center) and Angello Morinello at the Erie Canal Discovery Center

Niagara Falls resident Harshad Shah drowned when his boat capsized while going through the cave. Ortt said this legislation could possibly save a life down the line.

“It's a reminder that even things that may not appear unsafe can be unsafe, and it's a reminder that it's one of the reasons we have oversight. To just make sure that regular inspections are being done and someone's accountable.”

No criminal charges were filed against the operator of the cave and the cave remains temporarily closed this summer. Assembly Member Mike Norris said the Cave serves as a gateway for tourists to check out the rest of what Lockport has to offer.

“Action was taken in a bipartisan manner, and I'm very hopeful the governor will sign the bill, and hopefully relatively quickly as it's her bill,” he said. “And this will be good for the business operators and the patrons going forward. Lockport is a fantastic place to come visit.”

With widespread bipartisan support for the bill, Ortt and Norris expect it to be signed soon.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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