July 14, 2019 12:40 pm
Updated: July 15, 2019 8:48 pm

Edmonton Riverboat passengers rescued overnight by firefighters

WATCH ABOVE: Hundreds of passengers stranded overnight after Edmonton Riverboat gets stuck at Accidental Beach. Sarah Komadina has more.

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Around 300 passengers aboard the Edmonton Riverboat (formerly known as the Edmonton Queen) on Saturday found themselves stuck on the water overnight and in need of rescue.

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Fire crews arrived just before 11:30 p.m. after a call the riverboat was stuck at Accidental Beach, which is a sandbar in the North Saskatchewan River in the Cloverdale area created 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,” Edmonton Riverboat’s Nova Andrews said. The strong currents kept the boat from Rafters Landing, where it normally docks.

“The boat just had some trouble breaking through that and getting past.

“We were a full cruise last night — 300 people — so we were pretty heavy in trying to get our boat through that current and it was a little bit tricky.”

The boat was supposed to dock sometime between 10:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.

Watch below (July 15): Provincial officials are warning of a high stream-flow advisory on the North Saskatchewan River. Breanna Karstens-Smith finds out if it played a role to the riverboat getting stuck on the weekend.

In a statement posted on Facebook Monday, riverboat officials said they had to make a decision as to how to get passengers safely back to shore.

“Our first course of action under standard operating procedures is to employ our rescue service boat to come out and provide us towing services.

“Unfortunately, with the timing of this event, our service provider was out of town attending the World Jet Boat Championship Races. Therefore, we chose to employ the assistance of Edmonton’s Fire and Rescue services in the hopes they would be able to offer towing services,” the statement read.

“We called them at approximately 11:20 p.m. and they arrived on scene approximately 10 minutes after that. Our staff worked with the captain on duty to determine the best plan of action and it was determined they would not be able to offer the towing option with the equipment they had.

“It was decided that the best course of action would be to simply shuttle the passengers back to shore. One boat was tethered directly to Edmonton Riverboat to serve as a base for the passengers to transfer onto the transport boats.”

Edmonton Riverboat passengers were rescued by firefighters overnight after the boat was unable to get back to its dock because of the strong current in the North Saskatchewan River on Saturday, July 13, 2019.

Global News

A spokesperson with Edmonton Fire Rescue said three boats were deployed to ferry passengers to shore, but were only able to take between six and 14 people at a time. Crews were on scene until after 5 a.m. Sunday.

Firefighters said there were around 315 people on board, including Global News Morning Edmonton anchor Shaye Ganam, who took videos on board of the rescue operations.

READ MORE: 28 people rescued from rafts along North Saskatchewan River

“It was actually okay,” passenger Melanie Marcoux said. “They were very accommodating and they did offer free food after a while. They were like, ‘Yeah, hamburgers, hot dogs for everyone, we are really sorry,'”

“We were all safe, it was fine,” Marcoux said.

“We knew we weren’t in danger,” passenger Laura St. Jean said.

The boat was stuck for more than 14 hours, which lead to Sunday’s schedule rides to be cancelled. Andrews said this is the first time under this ownership that they have gotten stuck.

“Typically we do travel up to the Walterdale Bridge and back, it’s just every once and a while we will have the right conditions to head down, and I think as we were heading down the conditions felt good, and as we were coming back in the later evening winds picked up and the current got a little faster.”

“Mother Nature changes things quickly,” Andrews said. “The rest of the summer we will be more mindful for those types of things.”

No injuries were reported.

“Our riverboat is now back home safe and sound and we don’t anticipate making any changes to our upcoming schedule due to this past weekend adventure,” owners said in the Monday Facebook message.

“The challenge we faced is very specific to that area of the river and we will simply avoid travelling downstream while river levels are above normal.”

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