NORWALK, Conn. – The Island Belle is no longer based in Norwalk, but the party boat is still making headlines here.
The Mississippi River-style sternwheeler returned to the Visitors Dock from a party cruise at 4 a.m. Sunday with a brawl in progress, according to the Norwalk Police. Published reports said there were some injuries, and that the brawl continued off the boat when it docked in Norwalk, bringing all on-duty Norwalk Police to the scene.
Mayor Harry Rilling, who spent 41 years with the Norwalk Police, the last 17 as chief, said he wants more details on just what went on.
“I will be looking into this incident,” he said in a Sunday email. “There were some extremely disturbing and very dangerous things that occurred on this cruise. I am also concerned it took the entire on-duty contingent of police officers to respond.”
The Island Belle has been surrounded by controversy since before Superstorm Sandy, when complaints about the boat sticking into the channel from its mooring at the Visitors Dock were ignored. As Sandy bore down on Norwalk, city officials, acting on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers information, ordered Sound Charter owner Ken Hart to move the boat away from the dock, which was not strong enough to hold such a large vessel, they said. Hart did not move the boat. When the city attempted to reposition it, it broke loose and drifted across the Norwalk River, but not before causing thousands of dollars in damage to the dock.
Since then, the city and Hart have been enmeshed in a lawsuit. Hart wanted to re-establish his base of operations in Norwalk, but could not find a location and was instead approved to sign a contract at Playland Pier in Rye, N.Y. It is not known if the Island Belle has relocated there.