A passenger on the Celebration Belle says no one explained to passengers what was happening when the vessel ran aground Wednesday, July 25, 2012.
Kendon Weltha said the impact that stopped the Celebration Belle near Campbell’s Island was the second time the craft stopped during the same river cruise. Weltha said he and his wife rode the Celebration Belle from Dubuque to Moline.
He said the riverboat came to a stop the first time just above the lock & dam. Passengers were told they were waiting for lock traffic to clear.
Weltha, who says he is an experienced pleasure boat pilot, said he thought the Celebration Belle was actually stuck north of the locks. He said he saw river bottom being churned up as he heard the vessel’s engines being “alternately applied.” He said the cruise eventually resumed, more than a half-hour behind schedule.
Then the Celebration Belle stopped again.
“The boat came to an abrupt stop as opposed to the gradual, soft stop you would expect from sand or mud. The stop was abrupt enough to cause a standing, elderly man to be thrown to the floor,” Weltha said. “I was disappointed that there was no formal statement from the wheelhouse for 25 to 35 minutes stating what had happened.
A tug called the Wanda Isabella tried unsuccessfully to free the Celebration Belle.
“After approximately one hour, numerous dislodging attempts and at least three tow rope snaps, the Wanda left us and headed back upstream,” Weltha said.
Weltha credited the staff on the Celebration Belle, saying he thought they did all they could to keep the passengers comfortable during the ordeal.
Passengers were eventually boarded to Channel Cat water taxis which took them to shore.