December 13, 2010 in Nation/World

High winds ground showboat

Bill Draper Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Passengers are rescued Sunday from the Branson Belle after it was forced onto the shore Saturday night.
(Full-size photo)

More than 600 passengers and crew members of the Branson Belle showboat walked off the vessel Sunday morning after spending more than 15 hours aboard the boat, which ran aground in strong winds and choppy water.

The 750-passenger showboat departed from its dock on Table Rock Lake near Branson in southwest Missouri around 4 p.m. Saturday for what was supposed to be a 2  1/2-hour dinner cruise and a presentation of a Christmas show. Strong wind gusts forced the struggling showboat aground around 6 p.m. near the inlet where the boat docks.

Lisa Rau, a spokeswoman for showboat owner Herschend Family Entertainment, said the boat’s captains decided it was safer to leave the boat wedged against the rocky shore than try to guide it in the dark. She said the boat had food, beverages and warmth for the 643 people aboard, including 70 crew members. The cast and orchestra that had presented the Christmas show during the cruise performed their summer show to pass the time, she said.

Nine people, including four with pre-existing medical conditions and members of their families, were removed from the boat overnight by the Coast Guard, Missouri Water Patrol and several other agencies that responded to the scene.

“It was a difficult thing to maneuver because the waves on that lake were 4 feet high with white caps,” said Sgt. Dan Bracker, a Highway Patrol spokesman.

A local marina donated a 30-foot-long docking ramp that passengers loaded onto Sunday morning.

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