ATLANTIC CITY — A fishing vessel ran aground near the Pier Shops at Caesars early Monday morning and stayed there through much of the day — creating another tourist attraction in the busy section of the beach.

The 56-foot Jessica Heather ran aground just after midnight near Missouri Avenue, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It was removed shortly before 6 p.m., said Coast Guard Operations Specialist First Class Michael Blake. The boat was towed back into the ocean as high tide approached. The vessel was structurally sound, Blake said.

Earlier, the Coast Guard, Atlantic City Office of Emergency Management and Atlantic City police responded to the scene. The Coast Guard established a 100-yard perimeter around the vessel as a safety precaution.

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There was no safety threat reported, but officials say the perimeter was set up as a precaution against curious beachgoers.

A preliminary investigation revealed the ship's captain fell asleep while the boat was on auto pilot, which resulted in the stranding, according to Tom Foley, Atlantic City emergency management coordinator.

Blake said the matter was being investigated and did not comment further.

The commercial fishing vessel is registered to F/V Paige Nicole LLC in West Creek, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Foley said there was the possibility of the 64 gross ton vessel might list, or tilt to one side.

“You wouldn't survive that,” he said.

Before the perimeter was set up, people were trying to take pictures with the boat and were standing right next to it, he said.

“I think the adults were more tempted than the kids (to climb onto it)," said Nancy Russo, 39, of Stratford, Conn.

Russo was at the beach with her husband, David, 39, and 3-year-old twins. Also with them were Joan and Ed Baird, also of Stratford.

Baird said the boat was definitely an unusual site.

“It's not something you expect to see," Russo said.

Foley said that it was not typical for a vessel to run aground, and ordinarily the fishermen are tremendous professionals and experts in navigating the waters.

Atlantic City Beach Patrol lifeguards said there were no issues and bathers adhered to the perimeter in the water.

ACBP Chief Rod Aluise said that a similar incident occurred about 10 years ago.

The Lisa Kim, a 107-foot clam boat, ran aground near South Carolina Avenue in 2001, according to Press of Atlantic City article on May 11 that year. The boat had 100,000 pounds of clams that had to be transferred by crane onto refrigerated trucks, and the boat was eventually lifted by a 7-foot wave, after being stranded for 33 hours.

The stranding of the Jessica Heather is still under investigation, and may result in charges against the captain, according to Coast Guard Lt. Commander C.K. Moore.

NOAA investigated but said the boat had yet to make its catch for the day when the incident occurred, officials said.

Staff Writer Joel Landau contributed to this report.

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