UPDATED: Hundreds safe after winds ground Mo. showboat

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BRANSON, Mo. (AP) —  More than 600 passengers and crew members of the Branson Belle showboat walked off the vessel Sunday morning after spending more than 15 hours aboard the boat, which ran aground in strong winds
and choppy water.

The 750-passenger showboat departed from its dock on Table Rock Lake near Branson in southwest Missouri around 4 p.m. Saturday for what was supposed to be a 2.5-hour dinner cruise and a presentation of a Christmas show.

Strong wind gusts forced the struggling showboat aground around 6 p.m. near a site known as Poverty Point, a stone’s throw away from the inlet where the boat docks.

Lisa Rau, a spokeswoman for showboat owner Herschend Family Entertainment, said the boat’s captains decided it was safer to leave the boat wedged against the rocky shore than try to guide it in the dark between private boat docks nearby.

“In the inky dark of last night with incredible winds, swells and waves, when the captain found himself on a slopey, rocky point, he said ‘We are safe, let’s make the most of an uncomfortable situation,”’ Rau said.

She said the boat had food, beverages and warmth for the 643 people aboard, including 70 crew members.

The cast and orchestra that had presented the Christmas show during the cruise performed their summer show to pass the time and entertain the stranded passengers, she said.

OUR EARLIER STORY:

The unloading of passengers from a showboat that ran aground on a Missouri lake has begun.

The Springfield News-Leader reports a 30-foot ramp has been set up, extending out to the boat.

More than 600 passengers and crew were stuck overnight after the Branson Belle ran aground on Table Rock Lake.

A publicist for the boat’s owner says the cruise began having problems with propulsion last evening. A tug boat was called to help, but wind picked up and the boat ran aground.

The Missouri Water Patrol took nine people off the boat overnight for pre-existing medical conditions.

(Copyright: The Associated Press)

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