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Betsy DeVos’ family yacht untied, set adrift in Ohio

UPDATED: Thu., July 26, 2018, 8:14 p.m.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a tour of Ashland Elementary School in Manassas, Va., in April. (Sarah L. Voisin / Washington Post)
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a tour of Ashland Elementary School in Manassas, Va., in April. (Sarah L. Voisin / Washington Post)

A luxury yacht owned by the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos suffered damage when someone untied it early Sunday in Ohio, sending it adrift on Lake Erie with the crew on board.

A crew member on the SeaQuest called police to report that he and other members awoke to find the yacht floating away from the dock. The crew managed to gain control of the vessel, but not before it scraped the dock. The yacht suffered $5,000 to $10,000 worth of damage, according to a Huron Police Department report.

Bob Lippert, chief of the Huron Police Department, said it is unclear whether the vandal knew the yacht belonged to the family of DeVos, whose controversial positions on education have made her the target of ire.

“If you had just walked by it, you wouldn’t know that,” Lippert said.

But, he noted, the yacht’s arrival made headlines in Huron: “SeaQuest Yacht docks in Huron,” an article in the Sandusky Register read last week.

“The SeaQuest Yacht, famously owned by Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, docked in Huron Friday,” the article began.

Lippert said it is possible the untying of the yacht happened without a target in mind. Tourists flock to bars nearby during summer.

“It’s quite possible that it was a random act by some late-night revelers,” the police chief said.

The Education Department did not respond immediately Thursday to a request for comment.

Before she became education secretary, DeVos, who has a residence in Michigan, spent three decades advocating for charter and private schools. The daughter of an auto parts manufacturer, she married Richard DeVos, an heir to the Amway fortune. DeVos flies on her own plane when on official travel.

Her positions have inspired protests at many of her engagements. Teachers unions have roundly rebuked her, and civil rights groups, disappointed in her moves to roll back protections for students, have assailed her.

At her first school visit, to a middle school in the District, protesters blocked her from entering the building and one appeared to lay a hand on her. Shortly thereafter, U.S. marshals began guarding the secretary rather than officers employed by the department.

The Huron police chief said that although nobody was injured Sunday, untying the boat could have caused far more damage if conditions had been different.

“Had the winds been different or more boat traffic, we could have had a bad situation with a collision or something of the sort,” Lippert said.


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