By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Police say a man who was drunk and driving a boat on the Merrimack River nearly collided with their patrol boat while it was towing a boat that had broken down.
And when they asked him to stop and wait for them to return from dropping off the disabled boat at a nearby marina, the boater allegedly took off and a chase ensued.
When police caught up with the craft, the driver nearly struck the patrol boat again, then began yelling and swearing at the officer, police said. Police arrested Robert King, 32, of 57 Woodrow Ave., and charged him with operating under the influence while boating.
Police said the incident happened on Wednesday evening at about 11:10 p.m., a little over an hour after the conclusion of the city’s fireworks display in Riverside Park.
Detective Carl Rogers wrote in his report that he and Harbormaster Michael Vets were patrolling the river that night monitoring heavy boating traffic to ensure safe boating and curtail the use of alcohol. He estimated there were 300 boats anchored in the area of the Bates Bridge at the time in preparation for the fireworks.
After receiving a radio call for a boat that lost power and was adrift and heading towards the bridge, the patrol boat came upon the adrift pontoon boat and began towing it to a dock. With the pontoon boat in tow, Rogers noticed another boat was heading west towards his patrol boat, forcing the police boat to cut hard right to avoid a collision. He said it caused the pontoon boat to break free from the patrol and become adrift once again.
The operator of the other boat, a Sea Ray bow rider, was wearing an orange flowered shirt and was later identified as King. Two male passengers were on King’s boat. Rogers said King was towing a boat and to avoid hitting his patrol boat King put his bow rider into reverse, nearly colliding with the boat he was towing.
Rogers said he ordered King to stay put while he and Vets could two the pontoon boat to a dock. On the return trip, they saw King’s boat heading east and away from them. As they approached King’s boat, Rogers ordered him to shut off his engine then tied the boats together.
Rogers said King was yelling and swearing and appeared to be intoxicated as he was “slurring his words and was unsteady on his feet,” even though the water was calm. Rogers stated that one of King’s passengers became combative, but when he boarded the boat the man sat down. Rogers said he drove King’s boat back to the dock and called for backup. King was transported to the police station and was booked on the charge of operating under the influence of liquor while operating a boat.