Man said he wanted to take stolen Clipper ferry to Victoria

The man accused of stealing the Victoria Clipper IV ferry from its Seattle dock told authorities that he took the vessel because he wanted to go to Victoria, say court documents made public Monday.

A 33-year-old Washington state man was arrested by a SWAT team on Sunday about seven hours after the ferry was taken from its dock, meandered around Seattle’s Elliott Bay and then started to drift, causing worries about collisions with other vessels.

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The ferry’s operator, Victoria Clipper, said it has boosted security and is reviewing other measures to prevent a vessel theft from happening again.

Samuel Kenneth McDonough of Preston, Wash., is in King County Jail for investigation of burglary, reckless endangerment and malicious mischief in connection with theft of the ferry, which provides service between Seattle and Victoria.

McDonough made a court appearance on Monday, where the judge found probable cause to detain him, in lieu of $200,000 bail.

He is also being held on a warrant for failure to register as a sex offender.

Police said earlier that they were told the ferry was stolen for a trip to West Seattle. There was no explanation for why Victoria was subsequently cited.

The thief got into Victoria Clipper’s dock through a gap between the top of a two-metre-high fence and a roof. That gap has now been blocked with razor wire, company president Darrell Bryan said Monday. “If somebody tries to crawl through in the future, they’ll still be there when we show up the next morning.”

The vessel isn’t locked because it’s within a secure perimeter, but the wheelhouse was left unlocked, which contravenes policy, Bryan said.

“Looking at it, we felt personally violated, kind of like when someone breaks into your car,” he said. “But no one was hurt, the boat sustained minor damage, and this will probably sound bizarre, but it was an excellent security exercise.”

Bryan was in his Seattle office when he saw Clipper IV, worth $8 million, leave its dock around 6 a.m. Sunday. “I knew we weren’t using that boat … and then I looked at our fuelling schedule and it wasn’t scheduled for fuelling.

“All our captains were accounted for, and none of them were on that boat.”

He called the coast guard and said, “ ‘Someone has stolen our boat’ — it’s a call that you don’t want to make.”

Bryan watched the ferry on GPS heading south toward the Ferris wheel, then making a loop. “This person was moving around at two and a half knots, like a joy ride,” he said. “Then it was just drifting by the grain terminal and Elliott Bay marina.”

Bryan called a tug to get on scene and make sure the Clipper didn’t run into anything.

Court documents say the Clipper IV nearly collided with a Washington State Ferries vessel.

The coast guard, Seattle police and the port authority arrived.

A bomb squad and police dogs were called to deal with a possible terrorist scenario. “You have to plan for the worst,” Bryan said.

Seattle police said the boat was adrift 300 metres off Pier 69 at 7 a.m. when their marine unit arrived.

Police negotiators contacted the man on board. When talks faltered, a tactical team boarded and made the arrest without incident.

Bryan told his staff Monday to come up with recemmendations on how to improve security. The company is required to file reports to the Bahamas, where the vessel is registered, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and Det Norske Veritas, an independent association that certifies ships.

Clipper IV is expected to be back in service on Friday.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

With additional reporting from the Seattle Times

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