New England Aquarium: Man charged for swimming in shark tank ‘wins idiot prize’

The New England Aquarium recently unveiled a new Giant Ocean Tank after it underwent a $17 million renovation. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
The New England Aquarium recently unveiled a new Giant Ocean Tank after it underwent a $17 million renovation.

The New England Aquarium has responded to the arrest of a Quincy man who jumped into a 200,000-gallon centerpiece tank, saying it was the first time in the aquarium’s 40-year history that someone carried out such a stunt and giving the suspect the title of “grand idiot.”

Stephen Pellegrine, 51, was arrested Thursday evening after staff say he snuck into the aquarium without paying then jumped into the four-story salt water tank.

“This is the first time in 40 years and 50 million visitors that we’ve had such an incident like this happen. There is no underestimating someone who is intoxicated; whatever they want to do they will do,” ” Aquarium Spokesman Tony LaCasse told Metro in a voicemail Monday.

“We are just thankful he was not injured, that no staff were injured who helped get him out and that no animals were injured. But he wins the prize for grand idiot of the five decades of the New England Aquarium.”

Aquarium staff on Thursday demanded that Pellegrine get out of the water, but he allegedly swam around for “several minutes” before complying. Staff told Fox 25 that Pellegrine appeared intoxicated during the incident.

“Fortunately the sharks had already been fed,” Suffolk District Attorney Spokesman Jake Wark said in an email Sunday.

Pellegrine had a not-guilty plea entered on his behalf Friday in Boston Municipal Court to charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, Wark said.

He was held on $1,500 cash bail and ordered to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and to stay away from the aquarium. He is due back in court on July 23.

None of the animals in the tank were harmed.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
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