SAVANNAH: 16-hour ordeal ends for passengers on stranded casino ship (VIDEO)

After more than 16 hours, passengers stranded on a casino boat that ran aground off Georgia's coast were ferried to shore Wednesday aboard two Coast Guard cutters.

About 94 of The Escapade's 96 passengers and 27 crew members arrived at the dock shortly after 4 p.m., nearly 24 hours after the boat left for its maiden voyage Tuesday night. A second cutter carrying 20 more people was still en route and was expected to arrive shortly afterward. Four people were ferried ashore by helicopter.

Some of the passengers rubbed their eyes as they walked slowly off the boat, and a woman who didn't stop long enough to give her name said she was tired. A woman wearing a crew shirt, who also did not give her name, remarked, "I just want to go home."

Attempts to tow the boat failed when the tow lines broke, so those aboard were transferred first to small boats that hold about eight people, then to the two larger vessels, Petty Officer 1st Class Lauren Jorgensen said.

The 174-foot-long Escapade was about 1.8 miles off the north end of Tybee Island, a popular beach destination east of Savannah, in the Calibogue Sound near Hilton Head, South Carolina, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard received reports that the vessel had run aground around midnight Tuesday, officials said. The initial report from the Escapade's crew was about a malfunction of the chart plotter, part of the navigation system, Jorgenson told The Associated Press. But she said the Coast Guard hadn't been able to confirm any malfunction yet.

The Escapade is a casino ship operated by Florida-based Tradewinds Casino Cruise. The company's Facebook page said that Tuesday night was to be the maiden voyage for its Savannah cruise service and passengers were invited to board for free.


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