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Calif. Dad accused of throwing 7-yr-old overboard claims it was 'horse play'

Sloan Briles AP Photo

(CBS/KCBS/AP) SANTA ANA, Calif. - Southern California father, Sloan Briles, arrested for tossing his son overboard from a tour boat now claims he and the boy were just "horse playing." Briles was jailed Monday for allegedly slapping his 7-year-old special needs son then tossing him into Newport Harbor.

He said his son wanted to jump in the water and he jumped in after him, according to CBS station KCBS.

"It didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary," Briles said about the Sunday afternoon incident. "We were up to the key and him and I were screwing around and we just jumped out."

The 35-year-old father denies that he slapped his son or threw him off the boat in anger.

"There was no hitting. There was no striking of any kind and no anger whatsoever," Briles said. His girlfriend also denied that Briles was abusive towards his son, although she did say he was "a little intoxicated."

"His sons are his whole life," Jennifer Burrelli told the New York Daily News. "He would never ever do anything to hurt them on purpose. He knows now it could have gone badly. He doesn't even care about the arrest or his own name. He knows it was stupid."

However, two of 85 people who were on the Sunday afternoon tour apparently saw things differently. In 911 tapes released Tuesday, the passengers expressed shock and disgust after seeing Briles toss the boy into the water.

"I'm on a boat tour called the Queen and there's a man who just threw his son overboard," a woman told an Orange County sheriff's dispatcher.

"This man has been bad on our whole trip and he's swimming back to our boat now," she said.

Another 911 caller said she thought Briles was "drunk and violent."

According to police, Briles was on the tour with his girlfriend and two sons from a previous marriage. Sheriff's spokesman Jima Amormino said the couple got into an argument and that Briles threatened to toss the boy into the water if he didn't stop crying.

Staff members on the 42-foot boat said Briles told the boy he needed to toughen up then threw him into the water five feet below, said Charlie Maas, who oversees the tour company.

Someone on the boat threw the boy a life ring, and he was safely rescued by another boater. The father also jumped in to save him before swimming back to the tour boat. Briles was taken into custody for child endangerment and resisting arrest.

Both the boy and his brother were returned to the care of their mother, who divorced Briles in 2007 after having two children. His ex-wife, Christin, says Briles sees the boys only on his weekends and rarely calls them during his off weeks.

Briles pleaded guilty in in February 2009 to being in contempt for not paying child support and was sentenced to three years of probation, according to court records. He also pleaded guilty in 2011 to public intoxication.

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August 30, 2011 - Calif. dad throws 7-year-old son overboard during fight on tour boat, cops say