October 26, 2014

Casino ship no longer stranded off Hilton Head

Coast Guard response boats remove passengers from the grounded casino boat Escapade on Wednesday (Image: Coast Guard)

Coast Guard response boats remove passengers from the grounded casino boat Escapade on Wednesday (Image: Coast Guard)

A casino boat that ran aground in South Carolina waters around midnight Wednesday is now back at its home port in Savannah, roughly 36 hours after it became stuck south of Hilton Head Island.

A Coast Guard spokesman confirmed the 174-foot vessel Escapade freed itself under its own power at high tide about 12:45 p.m. Thursday. Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Soto said no commercial salvage vessels assisted the crew on Thursday. Several attempts to pull the Escapade out of the sand had failed on Wednesday. No one was injured in the incident.

Soto said two Coast Guard marine inspectors boarded the Escapade after it became free and conducted a damage assessment before the vessel returned to its mooring at Bull River Marina.

118 passengers and crewmembers were brought back to shore by Coast Guard cutters and helicopters on Wednesday, shortly after an effort to tow the boat to deeper water failed. Seven crew members remained on the vessel overnight. Soto said it was not clear if the lack of passengers helped on Thursday.

“It’s difficult to say exactly what the difference was between (Wednesday and Thursday), whether or not the weight of the passengers was a factor,” he said.

Soto said the Coast Guard is still investigating why the vessel became stuck about 1.8 miles north of Tybee Island. Early reports suggested the Escapade crew  reported a malfunction in the ship’s course plotter, a part of its navigation system. The vessel’s parent company Tradewinds Casino Cruise has not responded to requests for comment from numerous media outlets.