Image: The Waterfront restaurant drifts downstream
Tony Jones  /  AP
The Waterfront restaurant is held by a tugboat, March 12,  in Covington, Ky. The Waterfront, a floating restaurant, broke free from its dockside mooring on the rain-swollen Ohio River, and drifted about 85 to 100 yards downriver to a towering bridge nearby but a rear mooring line held it firmly as 83 nervous dinner patrons awaited rescue.
updated 3/13/2011 6:40:09 PM ET 2011-03-13T22:40:09

Crews moved a floating restaurant back to shore Sunday after it partially tore loose from its moorings and stranded more than 80 people on board for hours.

By late Sunday afternoon, the crippled Waterfront restaurant was sitting in the river near a landing, waiting for crews to secure it.

The restaurant broke loose on the Ohio River on Friday, requiring everyone on board to be rescued on a makeshift gangplank.

It remained unclear why the restaurant pulled away from its moorings.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Rob Reinhart told The Kentucky Enquirer that officials won't know until the river drops and they're able to look at the mooring system. A gangway was ripped from the shore and left dangling from the restaurant.

The Coast Guard, Waterfront restaurant owner Jack Ruby and Covington city officials developed a plan Saturday to move the restaurant. Everyone on board had to be rescued one at a time, coming off the boat using ladders and ropes used for a makeshift gangplank. Authorities said Cris Collinsworth, a former NFL star long associated with Ruby, was among those taken from the boat during the hourslong rescue.

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The Ohio River has been above flood stage for days, and other riverfront restaurants had closed because their gangways were under water.

The upscale steak and seafood restaurant remained open because its gangways were designed to be usable in higher water.

The Coast Guard is investigating what happened but does not inspect permanently moored structures such as the restaurant, Reinhart said. He said the Coast Guard does not have the authority to tell restaurants to close because of river conditions.

Covington's fire department regularly inspects the structure and its gangways for fire code compliance, Covington City Manager Larry Klein said Saturday, but that inspection does not include the mooring system.

Mark Wilson, who was dining at the restaurant, questioned how the mooring system failed and said a disaster was narrowly averted.

"I think it could have been pretty devastating for everyone on board," said Wilson. "Worst-case scenario, we would have all been getting dragged at the bottom of the river by the Markland Dam."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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