More than a dozen rescued from grounded passenger vessel near Valdez

U.S. Coast Guard crews from Cordova, Kodiak and Valdez came to the rescue on Aug. 31 when aboard a 75-foot glacier tour boat ran aground near the Columbia Glacier with 18 passengers and the captain on board. 

A report from the Coast Guard Sector Anchorage Command Center said watch standers overheard the ferry Aurora communicating with a vessel in distress, relayed communications through crew of the Aurora and determined that the tour boat Lu-Lu Belle had run aground in Columbia Bay with 19 people on board. 

Coast Guard officials dispatched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew from Kodiak, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew from Aviation Support Facility Cordova and a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Station Valdez. 

Coast Guard aircrews landed next to the vessel and transported all passengers and crew to the Valdez airport by 9:25 p.m., five hours after the Coast Guard response began. No injuries were reported. 

Coast Guard Cmdr. Scott Farr, search and rescue mission coordinator at Sector Anchorage, said the rescue of every passenger on the Lu-Lu Belle is testament to the attentiveness of watch standers and the readiness of response crews for all units. Farr also praised the crew of the Aurora and the city of Valdez Fire Department, Building Maintenance and Harbor staff, for contributing to the success of the rescue. 

The captain of the Lu-Lu Belle, who was not identified, stayed aboard overnight and was able to refloat the vessel at high tide. The Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Valdez is working with crew of the Lu-Lu Belle to conduct salvage operations and investigate the cause of the incident.