Elspeth Lodge December 1, 2010 – 3:19 pm
A 44-year-old California RV salesman was arrested on Saturday morning for releasing one anchor at the stern of a cruise ship.
Rick Ehlert was on a Caribbean cruise with his girlfriend when he became intoxicated. Aol Travel reported that there were 1,950 lives put at risk when Mr. Ehlert drunkenly ambled into a restricted section at the stern of the boat, put on work gloves and released a cable attached to a hook holding the ships anchor — he lifted a bar and turned a handle, causing the anchor to release.
Surveillance footage had revealed Mr. Ehlert as the culprit. When confronted by authorities he freely admitted to releasing the anchor and was taken into custody.
When Mr. Ehlert arrived in Tampa, Florida (the ships destination) he was escorted to the Hillsborough County Jail before being turned over to federal authorities.
He could face up to 20-years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.
The FBI has charged Mr. Ehlert with attempting to “damage, destroy, disable, or wreck a vessel.” He has also been charged with “attempting to endanger the safe navigation of the ship,” says AOL Travel.
Federal agents said that “free release of a cruise ship anchor” could have disabled the ship’s propeller or rudder, in effect jeopardizing the ship’s ability to maneuver, or the vessel could have been punctured .
The Holland America cruise line has released a statement to the National Post (and other media outlets) confirming the incident and thanking he authorities that helped deal with the situation:
“As this matter involves an ongoing criminal proceeding, Holland America Line will not provide any information beyond what has been included in the Criminal Complaint signed by FBI Special Agent John Manning. We can confirm that, to the best of our knowledge, the information in the Complaint accurately reflects what happened. As also noted in the Complaint, the Ryndam was unharmed by this incident. Finally, we want to extend our sincere appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Florida, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their immediate response to this incident and the very professional manner in which the investigation has been conducted.”