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. 

Next Up


Hennepin Theatre Trust announces 2021-22 Broadway schedule

Health and safety protocols will be in place based on state guidance.

Tim Walz

Walz to hold press conference on MN State Capitol safety concerns

This comes amid ongoing threats to state Capitols across the country.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Brooklyn Park standoff: Suspect kills himself, child taken hostage is safe

The standoff ended Thursday night when the suspect shot himself.

police tape, crime scene

Man dies in alley after report of shooting in Minneapolis

Police were sent to the scene by ShotSpotter activation.


COVID-19 shines a light on the struggles facing Minnesota's working mothers

Daycare and school closures have put working families under pressure, with mothers bearing the brunt.

Prada Purse2

Border patrol in Minneapolis intercepts shipment of 173 counterfeit designer bags

If they were authentic, they would have been worth about $405,975.

Minneapolis City Hall

Minneapolis councilors propose replacing police department, rent stabilization

Council members are also proposing two charter amendments to help renters in Minneapolis.

Vaccine COVID

MDH expands COVID guidance, urges providers to vaccinate the 65+

More vaccine guidance will be provided in the coming days.

Tom Brady

Coller: Which remaining teams should the Vikings emulate?

Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.


Man charged with theft for setting 2 boats loose in Duluth Harbor

The charges say he also threatened to blow up a strip club in the area.

Watch: Huge freighter dodges sightseeing ship let loose in Duluth Harbor

Someone unmoored two ships – and police want to know who's responsible.

Duane Waldriff

Man cited for alleged assault of journalist covering President Trump's Duluth rally

He's accused of hitting a WCCO photojournalist's phone out of his hand as he recorded a confrontation between the suspect and Joe Biden supporters.

Chicago man thrown overboard to his death after boat hit a wake on Kabetogama, sheriff says

He was thrown overboard after the boat hit a wake, and the operator was arrested.

Pedestrian killed in Duluth by suspected drunk driver

Pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise lately.

106-year-old barge sinks in Duluth harbor

The Coast Guard and salvage workers are trying to recover a nearly full 1,000-pound propane tank on board the barge, which sank early Thursday, the Duluth News Tribune reports. A Coast Guard spokeswoman says the barge itself will have to be removed if it disrupts navigation or poses a pollution threat.

Minnesotans mark 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack

The surprise attack killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178 others.