The president of Inland Marina Inc. in Evansville and an off-duty Evansville firefighter were arrested Saturday after police said they interfered during a fire at the marina that caused more than $2 million in damage.
Katherine Riecken-Parker, 33, and Edward David Parker, 47, attempted to run through a group of firefighters near a pedestrian bridge leading to the marina at 1731 Waterworks Road around 1:20 a.m., according to an Evansville Police Department arrest affidavit. Fire crews had the majority of their equipment and water lines on the bridge to fight a fire that started in a large house boat. The fire destroyed four boats and damaged another.
Ron Riecken was detained by Evansville police at the scene of the fire, according to Jason Cullum, Evansville Police Department spokesman. Cullum said Riecken was emotional and obstructing working firemen.
Riecken calmed down and was not arrested. He said he no longer has ownership interest in Inland Marina and that the property is owned by Inland Marina Inc.
According to records from the Indiana Secretary of State, Riecken-Parker is the president of Inland Marina Inc. She is Ron Riecken’s daughter and is married to Edward Parker, a firefighter.
Ron Riecken’s wife is Gail Riecken, a Democratic State Representative and candidate for Evansville mayor in 2015.
Gail Riecken said that she was not present during the fire.
“I was at the Harbor View, I couldn’t get down there,” Riecken said Saturday afternoon.
Harbor View is a subdivision north of the marina. Riecken attempted to go to the marina but was turned away at the subdivision by police who were blocking off Waterworks Road, Cullum said.
Workers with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management were at the marina Saturday containing thousands of gallons of fuel that spilled, according to Evansville Fire Investigator Tim Strange.
Crews shut off the marina’s inlet to keep fuel from flowing into the Ohio River. Strange said none of the fuel has leaked into the river.
The first dispatch call came around midnight, after the fire originated in a boat owned by Bill Marver, according to the fire department. Three people were on the boat at the early morning hour and investigators were told they were preparing the boat for sale.
“They smelled some smoke, and had a breaker trip,” said Richard Howard, a fire investigator. “They reset the breaker, and then the way it was explained to me, a woman knocked over a kerosene heater that was in the bottom of the boat.”
A female who was on the boat was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
The fire spread quickly, engulfing nearby boats. Howard said firefighters were challenged to get enough water to the scene.
“We have one hydrant in the parking lot of the marina, and then we have to rely on grafting water from the (Ohio) river, which takes some time to get started,” Howard said.
Parker and Riecken-Parker were seen scuffling with firefighters by an officer posted in the east side of Marina Point. A request came over from Central Dispatch soon after to have police units respond to the scene. Crews waved to police to help them near the pedestrian bridge, according to the affidavit.
Police helped five firefighters restrain the two from continuing onto the bridge, according to the affidavit. Both Parker and Riecken-Parker were reportedly pushing and shoving firefighters. One officer noted Parker was belligerent and kicking at several officers, striking one in the face and causing pain, according to the affidavit. Parker was taken into custody after an officer used a TASER on him, according to the affidavit.
Officers noted in their report that the couple reeked of alcohol and had unsteady balance.
Riecken-Parker resisted a police officer’s commands to leave the bridge several times, telling him he was not going “to force her off her property,” according to the affidavit. The officer noted once inside the squad car she immediately began to apologize for not following his requests.
Both suspects on Saturday were lodged in Vanderburgh County jail with no set bond on preliminary charges of resisting law enforcement, public intoxication and interfering with firefighters. Edward faces an additional charge of battery on a public safety official.
Howard early Saturday afternoon said the cause is considered accidental. A short time later, Howard said the department is considering the cause “undetermined and under investigation.”
“We need to verify the explanation of how the fire started, more than anything,” Howard said, adding that he is taking over the investigation because of his experience level. “We just, with the amount of loss we had, we don’t want to jump to conclusions. We want to investigate a little farther.”
Evansville’s water treatment plant on Saturday morning was alerted to the possibility of fuel in the Ohio River after the fire. The treatment plant on Waterworks Road began applying activated carbon to water entering from the intake valve, several feet beneath the surface.
Evansville Water & Sewer Utility Director Allen Mounts said the alert came from the U.S. Coast Guard or the city Fire Department, and he described the treatment plant’s action as “a precautionary measure.”
Mounts said petroleum usually gathers on the surface of a body of water, and the possibility of contaminating water coming in the intake valve was slight. But he said the activated carbon would remove any harmful substance.
Mounts did not know how long the treatment plant would continue to apply the activated carbon, calling it a judgment call by the plant’s managers.
Courier & Press reporters Cole Claybourn and Jessie Higgins contributed to this report.