Tour boat runs aground near Alexandria Bay

Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 6:58 PM EDT
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ALEXANDRIA BAY, N.Y. (WWNY) - An Uncle Sam’s tour boat went aground and took on water in the St. Lawrence River near Alexandria Bay early Thursday afternoon.

The Island Dutchess was grounded near Sunnyside Island about two miles north of Alexandria Bay and near the Canadian border.

Jefferson County Emergency Management director Joe Plummer says none of the roughly 130 people aboard were injured.

Another Uncle Sam’s boat was seen was returning them to shore.

People who were on the tour tell 7 News that they could feel the boat hit something and that they heard a scraping noise.

They say Uncle Sam’s staff told them to put on life jackets and to not be alarmed.

“I hear this scraping and then BAM and it threw the guy next to me about three feet backwards,” Pauline Helvie said.

“They did a great job bringing everything in, and getting the boat tight enough so we can all walk onto the boat without any problems,” Robert Barley said. “But that’s pretty scary when you’re out there, you’re stranded, you’re drifting and you don’t know if you’re going to make it off the boat, but thank God we did.”

Shane Sanford has a boat at nearby Wagoner’s Marina in Alexandria Bay. He told 7 News shortly after it happened that he saw an Uncle Sam’s tour boat stop along its regular route and then not move.

“I’m getting ready to go out on my boat and witnessed an Uncle Sam tour boat not making way in the vicinity they tour and it should be making way,” he said, “and observed it for some time and certainly something was amiss.”

7 News reporter Katie Benoit was on the scene and says efforts were underway to tow the boat back to shore.

She and the people we talked to from the tour say they could smell a strong fuel smell. Some passengers were reportedly getting headaches from the smell.

The Coast Guard said in a release that they and local fire department personnel were onboard Island Duchess assisting the vessel’s crew late Thursday afternoon. They said they were continuing to assess the situation and conducting salvage operations.

Coast Guard Marine Investigators, New York State Police, and New York Department of Environmental Conservation personnel were en route to the scene to investigate the accident.

The Seaway was closed to traffic for several hours while the situation was stabilized.

A St. Lawrence ship watcher reported vessels were back on the move as of 10 p.m.

Uncle Sam’s Boat Tours declined to comment Thursday afternoon.

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