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January 10, 2013 at 3:22 PM

Spontaneous combustion? Nah, that boat fire was arson

It’s official: Arson was the cause of a fire last Spring on a 140-foot boat unlawfully moored off Whidbey Island, according to a report by the King County Sheriff’s Office.

The Deep Sea, a rusted-out old fishing vessel, caught fire and sank to the bottom of Penn Cove early one Saturday in May. It cost the government nearly $5.4 million to clean up the mess and dispose of her. At the time, officials remarked that the vessel seemed to “spontaneously combust.”

Sheriff’s investigators recently determined the fire was intentionally set, but there are no suspects, according to Toni Droscher, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources.

The boat had been left in the cove by its owner, a Maple Valley scrap dealer named Rory Westmoreland. The state had begun assessing fines for the illegal moorage, and considered towing it away before it sank.

Droscher said DNR sent Westmoreland a $1.3 million bill in an attempt to recoup expenses in the cleanup. However, the agency conceded that it’s unlikely to collect. It is also looking at possible criminal charges related to leaving a vessel derelict and abandoned, Droscher said.

Westmoreland had bought the boat just six months earlier for $2,500, after the Port of Seattle advertised it on Craigslist. He had planned to use it to retrieve garbage and abandoned nets from the sea. The plan never really got beyond the talking stage.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: arson, Deep Sea, fire


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