Man arrested after stealing yacht and crashing during joyride in Newport Harbor, police say

A yacht with damage to its front end is pulled by a sheriff tugboat
A 60-foot yacht that was stolen and crashed into other boats in Newport Harbor is removed from a dock at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Harbor Patrol yard Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Times Community News)

A man was arrested by Orange County sheriff’s deputies Thursday and held on $3-million bail after stealing a 60-foot yacht and crashing it into multiple vessels docked near the Lido Island Bridge on Newport Bay, authorities said.

Joel Praneet Siam, 38, of San Diego was transferred into the custody of Newport Beach police and booked on suspicion of grand theft boat/vessel and being in possession of a stolen vessel, said Heather Rangel, a spokesperson for the Newport Beach Police Department.

Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Ryan Anderson said Harbor Patrol deputies were first notified of a boat collision in Newport Harbor shortly after 10 a.m.


They were told a 60-foot craft had been stolen from a yacht broker and may have been involved in the incident.

“The boat was apparently being serviced at the local yacht broker,” Anderson said. It “was being motored and collided with at least two other vessels in slips near the Lido Island Bridge, where the boat stopped.”

A docked, damaged boat with its mast leaning over
A damaged vessel docked in Newport Harbor.
(Kevin Chang / Times Community News)

In about 10 minutes, deputies found and boarded the yacht, which had become pinned after hitting a seawall near the bridge, Anderson said. Siam surrendered and was arrested.

“Something with this kind of damage is an isolated incident and is pretty rare,” Anderson said.

Rangel said police believe the incident began shortly before 9:30 a.m., when they say Siam committed an act of vandalism near Pacific Coast Highway around the Balboa Bay Resort before taking the boat.

Several witnesses posted video of boats crashing on social media.

A yacht with damage to its front end is pulled by a sheriff tugboat
A Harbor Patrol tugboat pulls the stolen yacht through Newport Harbor.
(Kevin Chang / Times Community News)

Newport Beach resident Todd Newkirk was working on a construction project on the fifth floor of the Newport Towers when he heard a big boom and rushed to the balcony to see what had happened.

“I wasn’t sure if it was an explosion,” he said. “He was on the east side of the Lido Bridge and hit the first dock over there — there was a huge wake, like he had made a U-turn. Then he got pinned, but the motor was running on full power.”

“At first I thought the guy had had a heart attack and lost control of the boat,” Newkirk added. “But then I saw he got arrested. If he was sick, they would have taken him in an ambulance.”

Anderson said it is unclear whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the incident. The recovered yacht was being temporarily housed in the Harbor Patrol yard in Corona del Mar and appeared to have damage on its side and bow.

The amount of damage caused to the other vessels struck by the yacht has yet to be determined, he added.