Drunk Passenger Drops Anchor on Cruise Ship With 1,950 Onboard

Posted Nov 30th 2010 11:15 AMUpdated Nov 30th 2010 06:01 PM

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A California man faces federal felony charges for releasing the anchor on a Holland America Line cruise ship while the vessel was at sea with about 1,950 passengers and crew onboard.

The FBI has charged Rick Ehlert, 44, with attempting to "damage, destroy, disable, or wreck a vessel" in the incident on the Ryndam.

In a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, authorities say Elhert was drunk and in "formal night" attire when he entered a restricted area, put on work gloves and released the ship's stern anchor.

Surveillance video captured the incident and also shows Ehlert, who owns an RV dealership in Thousand Oaks, Calif., throwing a life buoy overboard.

At the time, the ship was cruising from Tampa to Costa Maya, Mexico, on a weeklong western Caribbean itinerary.

The FBI says deployment of the anchor "could have caused significant damage," though the ship was unharmed.

Ehlert, who was traveling with his girlfriend, told investigators he has a 50-foot boat with an anchor system similar to what's on the cruise ship.

The incident led the ship's captain to sound an emergency alarm and muster passengers.

"We can confirm that, to the best of our knowledge, the information in the Complaint accurately reflects what happened," Holland America tells AOL Travel News in a statement. "As also noted in the Complaint, the Ryndam was unharmed by this incident."

According to USA Today, Ehlert was also charged with attempting to endanger the safe navigation of the ship and could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

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