Bail set at $200K for alleged Victoria Clipper thief

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by SUSAN WYATT / KING 5 News and Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on December 2, 2013 at 5:52 PM

SEATTLE -- Bail is set at $200,000 for a 33-year-old sex offender who is accused of stealing a Victoria Clipper passenger ferry from a Seattle waterfront on Sunday.

Authorities say the man illegally boarded the $8 million vessel and took it out into Elliott Bay on Sunday. He’s being held in King County Jail for investigation of burglary, reckless endangerment, malicious mischief, and an outstanding warrant for failure to register as a sex offender.

A King County judge set his bail Monday. Prosecutors have until Wednesday to formally charge him.

Darrell Bryan, president and chief executive officer of Clipper Vacations, was in his office Sunday and saw the boat leaving.

"I looked out my window - I'm not normally here on Sunday mornings - but I got here about 5:20 and about 6 o'clock I saw the Clipper IV 100 feet off the dock, headed in a southerly direction and we didn't have it scheduled to sail today," he said.

"We identified pretty quickly that all our captains were accounted for and that somebody had taken the boat and so we contacted the Coast Guard."

When a tugboat went to retrieve the boat they discovered there was a man on board and Seattle Police were called.

SPD’s SWAT, patrol and Arson Bomb Squad responded, along with Port of Seattle police and U.S. Coast Guard boat and helicopter teams.

Police negotiators contacted the man on the boat and, eventually, a tactical team boarded the vessel and arrested the suspect.

The man told police he had planned to take the boat to West Seattle.

According to an officer that was part of the response, the man was operating the Clipper when alarms on board went off and he didn't know what to do. So he shut off the engines and let the vessel drift about 300 yards off shore.

Officers say he appeared homeless and had signs of mental issues.

Bryan said the suspect should not have been able to gain access to the pilot house. The boat had been moored at Pier 69 for repairs since Thursday. Bryan said the pilot house is supposed to be locked, but wasn't.

Bryan said there are security guards, alarmed doors and security cameras so he was surprised that someone was able to gain access to the vessel.

"It was bizarre," he said. "A number of people thought it was a joke when I first initiated some calls, and no joke, just a bad experience."

Bryan said they are investigating to try to figure out how the suspect was able to get the boat going.

"It's not a small vessel, and it's not easy to start up," he said.

Bryan said getting the ferry to move means pressing a start button and completing a complicated clutching procedure.

Bryan said the suspect "apparently has some mechanical aptitude."

Bryan said the boat sustained some minor damage.

The 132-foot Victoria Clipper IV is one of three vessels in the fleet of privately-owned passenger ferries. Two high-speed catamarans are used for passenger ferry service between Seattle and Victoria, BC and one catamaran is used for Seattle/San Juan service and whale-watching excursions

Details about the vessel from www.clippervacations.com

  • 132 feet long, 33.3 feet wide
  • Holds 330 passengers and 5-10 attendants for service
  • Waterjet propulsion system
  • Speed up to 30 knots
  • Upper stern outside deck
  • Duty-free and gift shops on upper and lower decks
  • Some tables on upper and lower decks
  • All other seats with pull-down tray tables

 KING 5's John Langeler and Zahid Arab contributed to this report.

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