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Spanish Police Refloat Tour Boat

October 9, 1998

LLORET DE MAR, Spain (AP) _ Police divers on Friday refloated a boat that sank in northeastern Spain’s Lake Banyoles, killing 20 French retirees, and initial investigations showed the boat had no leaks.

``It looks like water may have got through air ventilation tubes which may have become immersed due to overloading,″ provincial fire chief Antoni Guell said.

Officials have said the boat was authorized to carry 80 passengers. An employee at the tour operator’s ticket office said 141 tickets were sold.

The electric-powered catamaran was pulling away from its mooring on Thursday for a half-hour trip over the lake, 350 miles northeast of Madrid, when its stern began to sink.

``It was like the Titanic, the way it went down″ said Evelyn Bengoechea, 52, who grabbed a life preserver after her husband, who could swim, pushed her out of the boat.

Authorities, meanwhile, were still unable to account for two people they believe may have gone on the excursion. So far, only 139 people have been located.

Two owners of the boat, including the pilot, gave secret testimony Friday before an investigative judge, who released them without filing charges. The court said the investigation would continue.

French Tourism Minister Michelle Demessine visited the 21 people still hospitalized.

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