Efforts resume to rescue dozens aboard ferry stuck in sandbar in Lake Erie

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KINGSVILLE, Ont. - Dozens of people trapped overnight on a ferry mired in the sand of Ontario's Lake Erie should soon be back on dry land, officials said Friday.

Susan Schremp, president of the Owen Sound Transportation Co. said a tugboat reached the Pelee Island ferry Friday morning and was expected to pull the stranded vessel to shore within a few hours.

Nineteen passengers — including an infant — and 16 crew members were on board when the ship ran aground Thursday afternoon, partly due to high winds and low water levels.

Schremp said the M.V. Jimaan was 200 metres from shore when it became stuck on a sandbar around 1:45 p.m.

The Canadian Coast Guard was immediately alerted, but determined the conditions made it unsafe to attempt a rescue at that time.

"(They) assessed the situation and determined that the weather conditions were not suitable (for rescue) and the safest place for passengers to remain was on board the boat, because the boat was in no imminent danger and there were no emergent situations on board," Schremp said.

Lake Erie, the shallowest of all the Great Lakes, is "most affected" by persistent high winds, which can cause water levels to drop quickly, she said.

The ferry is heated, and food and water were provided to those on board throughout the night.

"They were kept fed, and warm and dry all night long," she said.

Schremp said Friday everyone on the ferry was well and many were taking photographs of the dock.

Divers planned to assess whether the vessel has been damaged, she said, adding it's the first time the ferry has run aground for a reason other than mechanical failure.

Schremp said the crew followed proper procedure and could not have predicted the incident.

"We assess weather conditions every single time we leave the dock," she said.

"(When) more than one thing comes together at the worst possible time and that's when an incident would occur."

Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board were also on site to look into what caused the ship to run aground.

The two-hour trip from Pelee Island to the dock in Kingsville, south of Windsor, is usually made two to three times a day.

Organizations: Owen Sound Transportation Co., Canadian Coast Guard, Transportation Safety Board

Geographic location: Lake Erie, KINGSVILLE, Pelee Island Ontario Great Lakes Windsor

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