SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard rescue crews responding alongside U.S. Virgin Islands and Good Samaritan boat crews completed the safe removal and transfer of all 98 passengers and four crewmembers onboard the Royal Miss Belmar passenger ferry to awaiting local authorities in Red Hook Harbor, St. Thomas, after the vessel ran aground Monday night on a reef off the northeastern end of Great St. James Island, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Five of the passengers who sustained injuries onboard, including a baby, were transferred to awaiting Emergency medical services personnel in Red Hook Harbor.
“This rescue was possible due to the swift and quick response of Coast Guard boat crews, local emergency responders and Good Samaritan vessels on scene, who aggressively worked throughout the night to safely remove all 102 people from the grounded vessel,” said Capt. Marc Stegman, Coast Guard Sector San Juan acting commander. “The passengers remained calm and allowed first responders to successfully transfer them to safety.”
Coast Guard response and prevention personnel, including marine and pollution investigators, will continue working with the vessel owner and local authorities to coordinate the removal and salvage of the vessel, investigate the cause of the grounding and determine if there are signs of pollution in the water. The vessel reportedly is not taking on water at this time.
Coast Guard Watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a 911 call at 10:05 p.m. Monday from a U.S. Virgin Islands emergency operator and a radio call from the master of the Royal Miss Belmar notifying the ongoing distress.
Coast Guard rescue crews aboard a Boat Forces St. Thomas 25-foot response boat arrived on scene and coordinated the safe removal and transfer of the ferry passengers to Good Samaritan vessels on scene.
U.S. Virgin Islands National Park Service and St. John Rescue maritime units also responded to the distress.