The Coast Guard rescued 18 people from a passenger vessel that ran aground near the Columbia Glacier Thursday.
At 4:35 p.m., Coast Guard Sector Anchorage command center watchstanders overheard the ferry Aurora communicating with a vessel in distress. The watchstanders relayed communications through the crew of the Aurora and determined that Lu-Lu Belle, a 75-foot glacier tour boat, had run aground in Columbia Bay with 19 people aboard.
Coast Guard Sector Anchorage dispatched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew from Air Station Kodiak, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew from Aviation Support Facility Cordova, and a 45-foot Response Boat – Medium crew from Station Valdez to respond to the situation.
Lu-Lu Belle became grounded near the glacier, and the passengers disembarked to affect rescue. The Coast Guard aircrews landed next to the vessel and safely transported all the passengers and crew to the Valdez airport by approximately 9:25 p.m. No injuries were reported.
“I want to commend all of our teams on their swift and decisive actions resulting in a flawless rescue last night,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Scott Farr, search-and-rescue mission coordinator at Sector Anchorage. “The safe and effective rescue of every passenger on the Lu-Lu Belle is a testament to the attentiveness of our watch standers and readiness of our response crews from all of our units. We are also extremely grateful to the crew of the Aurora and the City of Valdez Fire Department, Building Maintenance, and Harbor staff, whose efforts were instrumental in the success of this case.”
The captain of the Lu-Lu Belle stayed aboard overnight and was able to refloat the vessel at high tide. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Valdez is working with the crew of Lu-Lu Belle to conduct salvage operations and investigate the cause of the marine casualty.