Crews rescued around 300 people during nearly six hour overnight evacuation
Firefighters rescued hundreds of people stranded on the Edmonton Riverboat late Saturday.
The trouble on the North Saskatchewan River started when the boat was near Accidental Beach. The crew was attempting to wrap up an evening cruise, and head back to the dock at Rafters’ Landing.
“The current became too swift, going in the opposite direction of the boat, and the boat couldn’t proceed into Rafters’ Landing,” Edmonton Fire Rescue spokeswoman Sarah Jackson said Sunday.
Three fire rescue boats were dispatched to the Riverboat, and crews began evacuating nearly 300 people, beginning at around 11:30 p.m. It took until 5 a.m. to get everyone to shore. Each rescue craft can carry six to 14 people, Jackson said.
Hayden Wilson had a front row seat to the river rescue.
Wilson’s company, SmartDrones, was helping Edmonton Tourism film a commercial aboard the Edmonton Riverboat during the cruise. He and his co-pilot had wrapped up their shoot by the time they realized they had been on the water longer than expected.
“The boat was weighed down to the point where, even though it was going full-speed ahead, we were just matching the speed of the current and just floating in the same position,” Wilson said.
“It took a while for the passengers to catch on, seeing as it was a booze cruise,” he added.
Wilson said a few people started to panic or seemed keen to get off the boat. He said he was impressed with how quickly Fire Rescue responded. Wilson said he and the commercial crew didn’t disembark with their equipment until about 2:30 a.m.
“The crew did a great job of establishing that there is no real danger, we’re just fighting the current and can’t get past it,” he said.
Wilson said it was a longer work shift than he was anticipating, but said as far as places to get stuck, being on the boat was a “great experience.”
By early Sunday afternoon, the boat remained mid-river near Accidental Beach.