Riverboat en route to Nashville stuck on Lake Barkley in Kentucky

Posted at 12:17 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 22:48:43-04

TRIGG COUNTY, Ky. (WTVF)  — The U.S. Coast Guard was called to Lake Barkley in Kentucky after a riverboat en route from Memphis to Nashville got stuck on a sandbar.

The Coast Guard confirmed the grounding happened at 1 p.m. Wednesday on Lake Barkley, which spans across Livingston, Lyon and Trigg Counties. American Jazz is carrying 120 passengers and 54 crew members.

A map of the American Jazz riverboat's journey

Lt. John Nolan is part of the Marine Safety Unit out of Paducah, KY and says they were notified Thursday morning at 8 about the stuck American Jazz Cruise ship.

He assembled a response crew to determine the safest course of action for budging the cruise liner free. He also sent investigators to better understand what caused the delayed request for help and what may have sent the ship off track.

"We don't know and that's part of the reason why in addition to our boat crews, we have investigators accompanying the boat crew to make sure the ship is safe," Nolan said.

As for boating conditions on Lake Barkley, Lt. Nolan says it comes down to "mariner's knowledge of the are to determine what is safe." He says that vessels of this size know to stay in the channel, otherwise you run the risk of hitting any number of sand bars. Nolan says it's not uncommon to see these large vessels traveling through the Cumberland river and he expects more travelers as tourism picks up.

Jennifer Holder says in all her years of boating, she's never seen a ship this size on Lake Barkley. She and the family were out on the family boat again Wednesday and found the cruise ship stuck. She was close enough to speak with passengers she says were in good spirits.

Holder and her husband returned Thursday to find tugboats attempting to pull the ship. Jennifer's husband, Chad Holder explained how the ship was clearly out of the channel markers designated to avoid these issues.

"I've been coming down here since I was probably 3-4 years old. All the channels are marked. If you stay in the channel where you're supposed to be than you don't have these kinds of issues. I don't know what happened. I don't know why they are where they're at. I've never had not one issue out here in my 40 years of coming to the lake," said Chad Holder.

According to the American Cruise Lines website, the ship has been in operation since March of 2021.

The American Jazz Cruise ship was en route to Nashville when it got stuck on a sandbar on Lake Barkley.

There were no injuries, damage or pollution to report, so far.

Lt. Nolan says a plan is in place to evacuate passengers and crew if the boat is not dislodged soon. Passengers will than be taken to nearby hotels in Kentucky.

The Coast Guard is coordinating with American Cruise Lines to establish a salvage plan to dislodge the cruise vessel. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

American Cruise Lines released the following statement:

The American Jazz is currently being assisted off a sandbar in Lake Barkley. There is no damage to the small riverboat, and both guests and crew aboard have been informed of the temporary delay. American Cruise Lines is taking all appropriate steps with authorities while local service providers assist the ship. American Jazz is following a seven-night Music Cities Cruise from Memphis to Nashville and the cruise is expected to resume with a few adjustments to the normal schedule.

American Jazz is a small modern riverboat and accommodates fewer than 190 passengers.

Watch Sky 5 aerials below: