Belle of Louisville hits dock not barge

Published: Oct. 17, 2009 at 7:01 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2009 at 7:13 PM EDT
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By Marisela Burgos - bio | email
Posted By Alane Paulley - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Belle of Louisville was involved in an accident on the Ohio River while taking passengers on a cruise. According to the Coast Guard the Belle struck the McBride dry Dock at 1:45pm Saturday.

Original reports speculated that the Belle struck a barge that was docked near the Indiana side of the river but upon further investigation the Coast Guard determined that the Belle actually struck the McBride dry dock, which is a vessel that is used to raise and lower boats in and out of the Ohio River. The Coast Guard also stated that one person who was on the dock at the time of the accident suffered minor injuries.

Geraldine and John Brecht were enjoying the cruise on the Belle when the accident happened. They say the Belle hit the dock as it was trying to turn around about halfway through the cruise.

"We kept saying this is an awfully long turn," Geraldine Brecht said.

The couple was celebrating a birthday with eight other family members. The birthday girl Whitney Wright said they were seated and eating when the accident happened.

"There was a jolt, from the back of us, and there was a barge that was parked behind," Wright recalled. "They [crew members] said to remain seated, that there had been an accident," Wright said.

Tugboats pulled the Belle to safety. Passenger speculated it took about 90 minutes to get back.

Chief Executive Officer Linda Harris believes the wind caused the Belle to hit the dock. About two-thirds of the paddle wheel's boards were damaged in the collision, and the main steel arm, which goes across the paddlewheel, was bent.

There were 280 people on board the Belle at the time of the crash. Right now, the total cost to repair the historic boat is unclear.

Harris says the crash is under investigation, and they have no reason to believe it was caused because of an error made by the captain.

"He has had many, many years on the water, both doing the Belle, as well as doing other tug boats." Harris said.

The accident did cause some injuries; two elderly women were taken to hospital. EMS Director Dr. Neil Richmond said they suffered minor injuries, after falling when the boats collided. And the Coast Guard confirmed that one person who was on the McBride dock at the time of the accident did also suffer minor injuries.

For now the Belle is going too remained dock until the needed repairs can be made.  CEO Linda Harris says they do not believe they will reschedule cruises, and that any future events scheduled for this season can be hosted on the boat while it remains docked.

According to the Coast Guard the investigation into what caused the Belle to hit the dock is still ongoing and is not going to be finished for some time.

For more information, contact the Belle of Louisville at (502) 574-2992.

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