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Published: Saturday, 4/16/2011

Boats filled with Miami University students bump

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEWPORT, Ky. — A boat filled with sorority sisters broke free on the Ohio River, spinning away from a dock and colliding with another ship also carrying a sorority party.

No injuries were reported when the two boats, belonging to B&B Riverboats and carrying hundreds of Miami University students from Ohio, hit at about 8 p.m.Friday.

One boat carrying the Alpha Phi sorority broke away from the dock, then hit a ship carrying the Gamma Phi Beta party.

Catherine Jones told The Kentucky Enquirer her group was told earlier in the night that the cruise was canceled because of the weather, but that their party that included dinner and dancing on the boat would go on as scheduled.

ms. Jones, a senior and member of Alpha Phi who was on the boat that broke free, said that as dinner was being served, it was apparent that the boat was moving. Ms. Jones said the then looked over at a waiter and asked if there was a change of plans.

Ms. Jones said the waiter looked panicked and said they weren’t supposed to be moving and no captain was on board.

“Out of nowhere, people started throwing life vests toward us,” said Kyle Searer, a passenger on one of the boats.

BB Riverboats owner Alan Bernstein said Saturday that he was still investigating and it may take a few weeks to figure out what happened.

“When the storm came, the wind kicked up and something obviously broke,” he said. “We’re not sure what.”

The Coast Guard’s command center for the Ohio Valley said one unit was at the scene for about two hours and left around midnight. No one was available Saturday to elaborate on the investigation.

Ms. Jones estimated the boat took at least a 180-degree turn and said that it wasn’t fully released from the dock. It was not clear Saturday if the gusty winds played a part in possibly causing a mooring to fail or if some of the lines slipped.

“Everyone’s good. We still had a lot of fun,” Mr. Searer said.

Mr. Bernstein said crew members followed protocol according to the emergency plan, adding, “I don’t think the girls were in danger at any point.”

He didn’t believe there was any damage to the boats.

The collision on Friday came five weeks after a mooring on Jeff Ruby’s Waterfront restaurant in Covington failed. On March 11, the boat traveled a short ways down the river and got lodged under the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

Ms. Jones called it unlikely that the sorority would schedule another event on one of the boats.

“I’m not full of rage or anything. I’m just kind of sad,” Ms. Jones, a senior, said Saturday morning.



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