Alaska News

Coast Guard rescues 18 after tour boat runs aground in Prince William Sound

Members of the Coast Guard in Alaska rescued 18 people on board a sightseeing boat that ran aground Thursday near the Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound.

According to a Friday statement from the Coast Guard, the 75-foot Lu-Lu Belle ran aground in Columbia Bay, and the Coast Guard became aware of the situation at 4:35 p.m.

The Coast Guard said helicopters based in Kodiak and Cordova on Thursday evening flew to the stranded vessel, which operates out of Valdez.

“They were actually able to land next to the vessel,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class John Hightower with the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska. “It was completely high and dry.”

According to Hightower, Coast Guard personnel flew 16 passengers and two crew members to the airport in Valdez by 9:25 that evening.

“The captain of the Lu-Lu Belle stayed aboard overnight and was able to refloat the vessel at high tide,” the Coast Guard said in its statement.

None of the passengers were injured, and the sightseeing boat did not appear to have sustained significant damage.


“An ideal turnout all around,” Hightower said.

A 45-foot response vessel harbored in Valdez responded to the incident in addition to the two Coast Guard helicopters.

Communication between the Lu-Lu Belle and Coast Guard was enabled by the ferry Aurora, part of the Alaska Marine Highway System fleet, which initially was in contact with the distressed vessel.

As of Friday, the Coast Guard was still investigating what caused the ship to run aground and could not say whether environmental or human factors may have played a role.

The Lu-Lu Belle is part of a glacier and wildlife cruise business, described on the company’s website as “Alaska’s most plush tour vessel!” Capt. Fred Rodolf, who has helmed the operation since 1979, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.