Swimmers arrested in Mississippi River near BBQ Fest

MEMPHIS, TN - (WMC-TV) – Triathlon training took a dangerous turn Thursday night when Memphis Police arrested two swimmers in the Mississippi River at BBQ Fest.

The whole Mississippi River swimming adventure and arrest sounds more like a comedy of errors with two confident swimmers who say they didn't know who was yelling at them and officers wondering if they were crazy.

"They were both in bathing suits and little goggles," police officers said.

"We were training for the triathlon," said Richard Prince, one of the swimmers arrested.

The two men say swimming in the Mississippi River is not dangerous, if you know what you are doing.

"I swim in it all the time," he said.

65-year-old Richard Prince has done the Ironman and has been swimming in the Mississippi his whole life. He also has piloted a riverboat for decades. He knows the river.

"When I get off work I just jump in the river and swim across. It's no big deal," Prince said.

But it became a big deal Thursday when people at the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest saw them.

"We were having a good time and everything was fine until we went by the Memphis In May barbecue," Prince said.

That's when some people became concerned and told police. Officers told the men to get out.

But Prince, who was leading Roberto Ferie, didn't have his glasses on, and can't hear well. So he didn't know who was yelling at him.

"I thought they were barbecue officials," he said.

Prince wanted to swim to his barge to get out at a safer spot. But he says Ferie hopped on the wrong barge, one carrying hazardous material.  The captain was yelling at them to get off. When police finally caught up with them they had their guns drawn.

"Sorry it happened. We don't do it again," Prince said.

The two swimmers are charged with criminal trespass.  Police say it is not illegal to swim in the Mississippi river but it is not recommended.

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