Man trying to cross Atlantic in giant ‘hamster wheel’ charged over alleged knife threat

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A serial adventurer intercepted off the South Carolina coast during his latest attempt to cross the Atlantic in a makeshift “hydropod” was charged with criminal conduct on the high seas after holding off US Coast Guard crews with a knife and threats of a homemade bomb, court papers said.

Reza Baluchi, an Iranian-born resident of Florida, was stopped 70 miles from Georgetown in the vessel resembling a giant hamster wheel. He told officers he was trying to reach London.

Charging documents filed in federal court in Miami said the 44-year-old was “conducting a manifestly unsafe voyage”.

Officers observed the contraption held together by wire and buoys but efforts to board it failed when Baluchi “replied that he was armed with a 12in knife and would attempt to commit suicide should the USCG officers attempt to remove him”.

They also saw Baluchi with wires in his hand, the documents said, adding that he threatened to blow himself up with a bomb if they insisted on coming onboard. Baluchi later admitted the bomb threat was a hoax.

The incident, which took place on 26 August, just as Hurricane Franklin was powering up in the western Atlantic, was the fourth time the US Coast Guard had stopped Baluchi from attempting such a voyage.

His previous efforts, in 2014, 2016 and 2021, in similar homemade craft, were all terminated close to the US coastline, the coast guard said, adding that he failed to submit the hydropod used for his latest try for inspection by the service’s marine inspectors as he was required to do.

He was taken aboard a cutter for basic medical attention, food, water and shelter, according to a statement, before being transferred to Miami, where he was arrested.

Baluchi’s website describes him as peace-loving adventurer who wants “to run through 198 recognised countries and paddle a Hydro Pad across the ocean showing the world that anything is possible if only you believe”.

Read More: Man trying to cross Atlantic in giant ‘hamster wheel’ charged over alleged knife threat

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