Mississippi River swimmers put hazmat boat on lockdown

Richard Prince, on left, and Roberto Ferie. Photo: Shelby County Jail.
Richard Prince, on left, and Roberto Ferie. Photo: Shelby County Jail.

(WMC-TV) – Two Memphis men were arrested Thursday after they decided to dive into the Mississippi River and swim their way to New Orleans, according to court records.

One of the thousands of people attending the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest spotted the men swimming in the river and alerted officers who were patrolling Tom Lee Park.

Police tried to get the Richard Prince and Roberto Ferie to swim back to the shore. However, instead of getting out of the water, the men told officers that they were swimming to New Orleans.

"That statement led Harbor Patrol officers to believe the two suspect (sic) may have been in an unstable state of mind," according to the police report.

But catching Prince and Ferie proved pretty difficult.

Before police boats could catch up with the pair, the men managed to climb aboard the "Arne Christiansen," a ship carrying hazardous material down the river, officer said.

The ship's captain ordered the men off his vessel over the vessel's loud speaker. But instead of jumping overboard, Prince and Ferie asked a crew member to help hide them from police, according to court records.

However, their pleas for help didn't work and eventually the pair jumped back into the river and boarded a second boat.

But officers were ready for the men and, with guns drawn, managed to arrest them on the boat's deck.

Prince and Ferie were both charged with criminal trespassing.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.