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Engine fire delays Columbia paddle wheeler

Coast Guard members from Marine Safety Unit Portland responded to a report of an engine fire aboard the passenger vessel American Empress after it experienced a significant machinery malfunction while preparing to moor near The Dalles on Thursday, according to a report from radio station KAST 1370.

“I spoke to a couple who were taking photos of the river and the sternwheeler and they stated they were passengers on board the tour boat,” said photographer Gary Elkinton.

“They told me the tour boat staff kept everyone calm and informed. The captain soon announced an engine had thrown a rod spilling engine oil and starting a small fire in some rags in the engine room.”

The American Empress remained moored in The Dalles for the initial Coast Guard investigation.

Environmental response teams were also on site to assist in cleanup.

The Empress makes port calls in Astoria at the 17th street dock.

The Coast Guard duty marine inspector for MSU Portland was notified Thursday evening of the incident after an engine fire left two of the four propulsion generators inoperable while mooring for the evening along the Columbia River, KAST reported.

The boat did not lose power or propulsion, the vessel was able to moor safely and passengers remained aboard overnight.

“The Coast Guard will conduct a thorough investigation of the incident as well as be involved in the oversight of the repairs,” said Capt. Tom Griffitts, commander, Marine Safety Unit, Portland. “Safety of the passengers and waterway are our main concern and we will ensure the vessel is safe before continuing operations.”


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