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Excelsior man suspected of setting 2 sightseeing boats adrift in Duluth Harbor

One boat nearly hit a 1,000-foot freighter.

Police believe a 47-year-old man from Excelsior set two sightseeing boats adrift in Duluth Harbor early Thursday morning. 

Surveillance video (watch it here) from the area shows a man pushing one of the Vista Fleet boats away from the dock, and now police have identified the suspect as a 47-year-old from Excelsior, according to an email news release.

“The video is pretty telling,” Lt. Jeff Kazel told the Duluth News Tribune. “This was a person who had to have some knowledge of boats. We definitely think there was intent.”

Police believe he was the only person involved in the incident, and they're working on determining what he'll be charged with, the release says. 

Lt. Chuck O'Connor of the Duluth Police Department told GoMN before the suspect was identified that they planned to work with the county attorney's office to "get creative" on charges, which could include theft of a vehicle and disorderly conduct. 

The suspect is currently booked into the St. Louis County Jail on unrelated charges, KBJR 6 reports

A spokesperson for Vista Fleet told the publication the suspect is a boat mechanic in Minnetonka. 

Here's what happened

The suspect unmoored two boats and set them adrift – without anyone onboard – near the Aerial Lift Bridge around 2:47 a.m. Thursday. 

Surveillance video captured the suspect guiding one of the boats by hand out of the slip and into the harbor, after he had untied the moorings and unplugged a huge electrical cord. 

One of those boats – the Vista Queen – narrowly missed colliding with a 1,000-foot freighter that was making its way under the Aerial Lift Bridge. A U.S. Coast Guard boat had prevented the two from colliding (see video from the near miss here). 

Both boats were back at the dock by about 7 a.m. Thursday, less than an hour after police were informed about the incident. 

Duluth police are still asking anyone with information on the incident to contact them by calling 911. 

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