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Man charged with setting luxury boat on fire

Julio Chavez Jr. / phofrom Chicago police.

Julio Chavez Jr. / photo from Chicago police.

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Updated: June 28, 2013 6:40AM

The man accused of setting a million-dollar boat ablaze at Burnham Harbor allegedly started it by firing the flare gun inside the main cabin, and was still hanging around — dressed only in his boxers — when firefighters arrived to extinguish the flames, according to the owner of the craft.

“The police said he took my flare gun out of my kit and fired the flare gun into the cabin. Then he stayed on board. He didn’t even leave,” said Dr. Daniel McCormack, 55, a Glen Ellyn veterinarian. “They actually found him on the boat when they were putting out the fire.”

“It was horrific. The damage was extensive. It’s just so stupid and sad,” said McCormack, who said the vessel is named Lucerne, the same moniker as the lake in Switzerland. Police said the boat, a 2006 Grand Banks Trawler 46 Europa, is valued at $1 million.

Julio Chavez, 34, of no confirmed address, was charged with felony arson and burglary, according to Chicago police News Affairs. Chavez is known to officers because he is affiliated with a gang, a source said.

“He didn’t know who he was or where he was,” McCormack said, recalling what police told him about the intruder. “They couldn’t even talk to him for quite a while.”

Even though it was about 60 degrees, police found him dressed in boxers, he said.

When authorities first informed McCormack of the Friday afternoon fire, “I thought, this can’t be true. They gotta have the wrong boat. We always took great care of it.”

“We took it out of storage on May 8th and drove it from Waukegan to Chicago,” McCormack said. “The family loved it.”

Chavez ignored “No Trespassing” signs and bypassed a locked gate to gain access to the boat, according to police News Affairs.

A nearby boater who was working on his vessel saw the blaze and called in to report it. Authorities found Chavez on the bottom deck, according to police News Affairs. A police Marine Unit officer detained Chavez as firefighters extinguished the flames, said a News Affairs spokesman.

McCormack said he often used the Lucerne for Lake Michigan getaways to South Haven. His four children, ages 11-21, especially enjoyed trips on the craft, which he bought in 2006 from a dealer in Waukegan. “Great family fun.”

Asked if it can be repaired, McCormack said, “That’s the question right now. We’re waiting for the insurance and surveyors to come.” He’s planning to have it towed to Larsen Marine in Waukegan.

“We’re very sad,” McCormack said.

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