SANTA ANA, Calif. - It was a pleasant afternoon aboard a sightseeing cruise around scenic Newport Harbor until the unthinkable happened: A man threw his crying 7-year-old son overboard during an argument in front of shocked passengers, authorities said.
Sloane Briles, 35, was taken into custody and charged with child endangerment and resisting arrest, according to Jim Amormino, Orange County sheriff’s spokesman.
“The father hit him several times and then threatened to throw him overboard if he didn’t stop crying,’’ Amormino said. “The crowd on the boat became very angry at the father for hitting the kid and extremely angry when he threw him overboard.’’
Authorities said Briles appeared to have been drinking. He was released Monday.
Briles, his girlfriend, and two sons from a previous marriage went on the Sunday afternoon cruise around Newport Harbor on a boat carrying 85 people. Briles began arguing with his girlfriend and his 7-year-old son, Amormino said, adding the child was not an expert swimmer.
The New York Daily News reported that the father’s girlfriend told the newspaper that he was only “roughhousing’’ with his son as he often does and regretted his “stupid’’ judgment.
Staff members on the tour boat said Briles told the boy he needed to toughen up, then threw him into the water 5 feet below, said Charlie Maas, who oversees the tour company.
“That could have been fatally dangerous,’’ he said.
Someone on the boat threw the boy a life ring, and he was safely rescued, uninjured.