Nearly 300 passengers were rescued from Edmonton Riverboat Saturday night after getting stranded in the waters of Canada’s north Saskatchewan River for almost 14 hours hampered by a strong current.
The rescue operation by Edmonton Fire Services finally brought passengers safely to the shore.
According to reports, the riverboat was stuck near accidental Beach due to a strong current despite attempts to move the vessel.
The boat was scheduled to dock at 10:30 p.m at Rafters Landing in Alberta.
According to Edmonton Riverboat’s Nova Andrews, Accidental Beach is a sandbar in the North Saskatchewan River in the Cloverdale area borne by LRT bridge construction.
“Nothing against the construction but it just physically changes the flow pattern of the water and makes that current a little bit stronger,” Andrews said.
Edmonton Fire Rescue Services led the evacuation and was backed by many rescue boats that unloaded groups of people from the ferry.
Sarah Jackson, City of Edmonton senior communications advisor, said rescuers tried to offload passengers at the rate of 100 people to test if that makes the boat move with the lesser load.
Nearly 90 percent of the ferry’s passengers were offloaded by 4:30 a.m.
No injuries were reported. A filmmaker on board, Jayden Wilson, said the crew did a great job in keeping passengers calm. They just told them “we are fighting a current and can’t just get past it.”
He said it took time for passengers to understand the situation is like a booze cruise.
“The bars were open, so no one was too worried about it,” chuckled one passenger saying there was no panic.
Challenge of evacuating passengers
According to Riverboat officials they had to make a decision fast on getting back passengers safely to shore.
The first option was to employ own rescue service boat for towing services. Unfortunately, the service provider was away attending the world Jet Boat Championship Races.
Therefore, the assistance of Edmonton’s Fire and Rescue services was sought. They arrived at the scene by 11.30 pm and determined that the towing option will not work with the available equipment.
Then it was decided to shuttle the passengers back to shore. By tethering a boat directly to Edmonton Riverboat a base was made so that passengers can shift themselves onto the transport boats.
A spokesperson with Edmonton Fire Rescue said three boats ferried passengers of the cruise ship to shore. The operation continued till the early hours of Sunday.
However, the Riverboat failed to be back to Rafters’ Landing Sunday morning and canceled some of its later day sailing plans.