All passengers, crew evacuated from stranded casino boat - WNEM TV 5

All passengers, crew evacuated from stranded casino boat

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(Source: Charles Richardson) (Source: Charles Richardson)

During its maiden voyage, Savannah's newest casino boat ran aground. 

More than 12 hours after being scheduled to return, all passengers and crew members have been evacuated from the stranded ship. 

At 3 p.m., four people were placed on a Coast Guard helicopter, including a possible stroke victim, a man with a cane, one with a walker, and one with a brace. They were placed on the helicopter because they were not able to be placed to one of the smaller rescue boats.

Evacuated passengers and crew members were taken to the Coast Guard's station on Tybee Island.

The Coast Guard says the boat is still stuck off the Coast of Tybee Island. 

Multiple attempts were made to tow the ship by tug boat, and the tow line broke four times. There was even an attempts to push the boat, but that method also failed.

A captain from Seatow said they used normal methods for towing boats.

Capt. Walter Rhame said more than 85 percent of the calls he responds to daily involve a boat being stuck on a sand bar.

This isn't uncommon, but he said the reason it's so difficult for this boat to be moved is because it's made of steel. 

"A fiberglass hull, you'll pull it at 90 degrees and slide it right off," said Rhame. "They're doing things to that boat that it was not designed to do. It's a hard call."

The tug boat is supposed to be back at 10 p.m.  to try again to get the ship off the sand bar.

Things have already been a bit bumpy from the beginning for this cruise line. The general manager had originally said he planned to set sail on May 15, then after a delay, he said the boat would sail late last month. It finally had its maiden voyage Tuesday evening, setting sail at 7 p.m., but it's obviously not the debut anyone was hoping for. 

The vessel, run by the Tradewinds Casino Cruise Lines, is called, "The Escapade." According to the Coast Guard, the boat ran aground shortly before midnight on a sandbar off of Tybee Island. There have been no reports of distress on board the vessel so far, and the Savannah Marine Safety Unit is currently investigating the incident. 

Meanwhile, WTOC has received several images from passengers currently stuck on board the ship.

One passenger said they "are sideways, stuck on something, everyone has life jackets on." 

That person went on to say, "The Coast Guard has been notified we think. I'm so unhappy with this cruise!" 

Officials say a total of 123 people were on board; 96 passengers and 27 crew members.

WTOC has a news crew in the parking lot where the cruise was supposed to dock after its first trip out to sea and ran into some employees from Tradewinds Casino Cruises, but they said they could not comment.

Coast Guard officials say the boat is located about 1.8 miles off the north end Tybee Island. They say the boat can't be moved until high tide. 

Officials also say the boat is in stable condition, but it may be leaning to the side.

We will continue to follow this developing story throughout the day. Stay with WTOC for all the latest updates. 

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