December 25, 2014

Passengers rescued from grounded casino boat

The Escapade grounded near SC's coast (Image: Coast Guard)

The Escapade grounded near SC’s coast (Image: Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard reports 118 people have been safely removed from a casino boat that was grounded off the coast of South Carolina early Wednesday morning.

The Escapade, a 174-foot Savannah casino boat making its maiden voyage, ran aground in the Calibogue Sound south of Hilton Head Island around 1:00 a.m. The Coast Guard said the vessel got stuck about 1.8 miles north of Tybee Island in Georgia.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Lauren Jorgensen said a towing company tried to assist the Coast Guard in removing the passengers and salvaging the ship, but was unsuccessful after the tow lines broke. The passengers have since been transported to shore by Coast Guard vessels.

“There’s 118 total people including crew and passengers coming off the boat,” Jorgensen said. “114 of those people  were taken off by boat and will be headed back to Coast Guard station Tybee Island.”

Jorgensen said four passengers were removed by Coast Guard helicopter because they were either uncomfortable or unable to climb down the ladder to get on to the Coast Guard vessel. She also said seven crew members will remain aboard the Escapade to assist the Coast Guard in removing the boat.

The Coast Guard and the commercial salvage company are still  unsure of how to get the boat off of the rocks.  Jorgensen added that rescuers are more interested in the safety of the passengers and crew for now.She said investigators will try to determine why the boat became stuck.

“It’s too early at this point to tell,” Jorgenssn said. “The crew did report early on that their chart plotter malfunctioned, but we can’t confirm that because it will be under Coast Guard investigation.”

The ship is owned by the Tradewinds Casino Cruise Company and offers offshore gaming and casino experiences to those who live in states like South Carolina and Georgia where gambling is illegal.

Patrick Ingraham filed this report.