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Kenai Fjords Tours boat damaged after striking bottom; passengers safely transferred to second boat

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating a tour-boat grounding in the waters outside Seward on Saturday that forced the operator, Kenai Fjords Tours, to shift about 90 passengers onto a second boat.

The Alaskan Explorer "touched bottom" in Cataract Cove at about 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, about 35 miles southwest of the scenic Alaska town, according to Fernando Salvador, vice president of Alaska Collection by Pursuit, which owns the tour operator.

The guests and the small crew were safely transferred to a "secondary boat," Salvador said. They returned to Seward at 7 p.m.

"There were no injuries to guests or staff," Salvador said on Sunday. "Our immediate focus was ensuring the safety of the passenger and crew."

The Alaskan Explorer's propeller was damaged. But the tour boat was maneuverable at "limited speed," he said. The 95-foot boat returned to the Seward harbor with help from a tug boat.

The mishap occurred partway through the company's Northwestern Fjord Tour in Kenai Fjords National Park, a full-day trip to visit tidewater glaciers. Salvador said the Coast Guard was immediately notified of the accident.

The agency is investigating the incident, according to Petty Officer Charly Hengen.

Hengen said she could not provide additional details about what happened.

Salvador declined to speculate on what the tour boat may have struck. He said the company is also investigating the cause of the accident.

"We're hoping to get the boat out of the water today" for a look at the damage, he said.

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