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Two charged for allegedly crashing stolen boat into Peoria dam

April 11, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Peoria Journal-Star

PEKIN — Two men who allegedly stole a houseboat and crashed it into the Peoria dam on the Illinois River knew the owner of the vessel, according to authorities.

The boat - a 65-foot watercraft that belonged to former EastPort Marina harbormaster John Eakle - was recovered after sustaining heavy damage about 9 p.m. Sunday on the dam at Creve Coeur.

“That’s his baby,” Creve Coeur Police Chief Pete Fisher said of Eakle’s houseboat. “I’ve been on it many times.”

Chad Robson, 30, and William Lilenthal, 23, allegedly were intoxicated when the crash occurred. Though they knew Eakle, they did not have permission to take the boat, according to police.

Lilenthal “said he knew there was a dam ahead,” Fisher said. “But he couldn’t see it until it was too late. He said the next thing he knew, they were going over.”

Robson and Lilenthal, both of Peoria, were lucky the large boat went prow-first over the wickets at the Peoria Lock and Dam off Creve Coeur’s banks, said Mike Johnson, chief of the Fondulac Park District Police Department, which supervises river rescue and recovery operations in the area.

“If the boat had gone over sideways we’d probably have done a recovery” search for drowning victims, he said.

Eakle’s boat, however, may not survive.

Fisher said Lilenthal and Robson managed to hang on as the craft spilled over the dam and, despite a gaping hole in its hull, “managed to get it over to the far south end of the lock,” where a worker there tied it off.

“They put a bilge pump with a 2 1/2-inch hose in (to pump water out), and it was still sinking,” he said.

With the pump at full throttle, a tugboat managed to tow the boat back north to Detweiller Marina in Peoria, Johnson said. There a U.S. Coast Guard “safe boat” - small but high in horsepower - tied onto the houseboat and drove it hard toward shore to beach it.

The houseboat sustained about $20,000 in damages, he said. The wickets that were displaced by the crash were easily moved back into position, and the lock and dam was not harmed by the wreck, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Robson and Lilenthal began their joy ride by allegedly breaking into the docked boat while Eakle was out of town.

“These guys know the owner, but he didn’t give them permission” to take the boat sometime in the early morning, Johnson said. “Alcohol had a big role to play - and inexperience of the (boat) operators.”

The two each were charged in court Monday with felony theft and ordered to appear at preliminary hearings April 26. Bond was set at $7,500 for Lilenthal and $10,000 for Robson.

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I hope that Robson and Lilenthal do prison time for this one!!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/12 at 09:00 AM

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