Police: Drunken boater crashes into Aurora

At about noon on Labor Day, a man driving a 43-foot commercial fishing vessel played “bumper boats” in Aurora harbor before he slammed into a dock and was arrested.

“For reasons unknown at this time he drove into the main dock, broke it several places, played bumper boats and was arrested by JPD for suspected DUI or BUI — boating under the influence,” Harbor Master Dave Borg told the Empire in a phone interview Tuesday.

The Juneau Police Department arrested Darrin R. Hess, 51, for driving (a watercraft) under the influence and refusing to take a breath test, according to JPD’s Daily Bulletin. Officers took Hess to Lemon Creek Correctional Center, where he is being held without bail.

According to Borg, Hess drove his boat into the harbor looking for moorage. He drove between the M and K floats, near the northern-most section of the harbor before causing “pretty significant damage” to several moored boats and the dock itself.

Borg doesn’t yet know how much it will cost to fix the damaged infrastructure. The dock had only recently been repaired. The city has requested that engineers with a local firm assess the damages.

“I’m not even sure I’ve seen all the damage,” Borg said, describing the importance of the upcoming assessment. “You get those guys poking around down there and they usually find more.”

Though he doesn’t know the exact location of the boater, Borg knows exactly where the boat in question is; it never left. The 43-foot vessel, named the Nor’ Gale, is moored in Aurora Harbor for now.

Borg said that the vessel isn’t one that usually moors in Aurora Harbor, and he described the boater as “transient,” meaning that he follows the fish from town to town. He said he thinks the driver and his vessel are from Haines, but he isn’t sure.

“He’s not a local boat, I can tell you that,” Borg said. “This is not a Juneau vessel.”

The city’s Docks and Harbors division has worked since Monday to make sure the dock is usable, but Borg cautioned harbor patrons to be careful when walking near the site of the collision.

“It’s not the safest situation,” he said. “If people are down there, they need to use caution while they’re walking around.”

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or sam.degrave@juneauempire.com.

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