Different stories emerge in casino boat accident - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Different stories emerge in casino boat accident

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TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) -

Tradewinds Casino Cruises issued a statement Thursday saying, "the Escapade was more than three nautical miles from land" when it ran aground on a sandbar late Tuesday night.

Tradewinds owns the Escapade. The boat's maiden voyage came to an end Thursday, when it dislodged from a sandbar and arrived back on shore.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the vessel became stuck, not three miles, but 1.8 nautical miles northeast of the northern tip of Tybee Island.

Passenger Debbie DiNicola said when the ship ran aground, "They just kept gambling." 

"Everybody was, you know, gambling," she said.

Federal law prohibits gambling within three nautical miles of the shore of states where gambling is illegal.

Passengers on the Escapade wondered why playing continued after they were supposed to be on shore, until the captain announced the problem to passengers.

"After the captain came on the intercom, the slot machines and all cut off," passenger Joseph Stanfield said.

Gambling too near shore sunk Savannah's last casino cruise venture. Diamond Casino Cruise was raided by law enforcement in November 2011. The owners of that business pleaded guilty to illegal gambling last year.

The Department of Homeland Security investigated the Diamond Casino case. A WTOC reporter alerted Homeland Security to claims of near-shore gambling on the Escapade. The department, as a matter of policy, does not comment on whether or not they are investigating a report. Their official statement is that they are "aware" of passengers' claims.

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