LOCKPORT, N.Y. -- On June 12, 2023, one family's life changed forever when a boat traveling through relatively shallow waters capsized during the Lockport Cave and Underground Tour.

Investigators say 65-year-old Harshad Shah was trapped under the boat and died.

"I can't imagine what that family is going through and I would never pretend to be able to just pass a bill and say now it's okay," New York state Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said.

Ortt, who represents the Niagara County canal city, said as people looked for answers it quickly became clear there was a gap in oversight of the tourist attraction.

"It's unusual," he said. "It's not an amusement park. You're not operating a vehicle or vessel on the Erie Canal or on the lake or on the river. It sort of doesn't fit neatly in a lot of the other definitions that we use to regulate either boats or attractions or what have you."

Ortt and state Assembyman Mike Norris, who also represents the area, introduced legislation to clarify what state agency would provide oversight and protection. They worked with the governor's office, which added its own input on language and stayed on as co-sponsors in their respective houses. 

"This hopefully helps both parties, the operator, as well as patrons if there's a concern," he said.

Last week, the Assembly followed the Senate in passing legislation that will require at least an annual inspection of any vessel operated on privately or publicly owned underground non-navigable waterways. It ensures the Cave Tour and any other that may be like it are under the purview of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Ortt expects Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign the bill since her office contributed to the legislation.

"I don't know if it would have saved the gentleman who lost his life a year ago. I don't think I can say that but that doesn't mean that it didn't highlight a gap, a hole, that needed to be corrected going forward," he said.

Ortt said in light of the tragedy it's important people have assurances moving forward the boat is safe, is inspected regularly and there is accountability.