Byline: Associated Press/Michelle Rindels
LAKE TAHOE — Witnesses at Tahoe Keys Marina say they heard screeching, the sound of tearing metal and a passenger yell, “oh, no!” late at night July 8. The next morning, a three-story, $3.2 million yacht so big that it had its own helicopter pad was sunk, one end of it touching the South Lake Tahoe marina bottom at a Titanic-esque tilt.
It’s still not clear what sent the 86-foot Sierra Rose slowly to the lake bed, where it remained partially submerged July 10, waiting for a private contractor to remove it, according to El Dorado County Environmental Health Manager Barbara Houghton.
Witness Heather Contreras, who was visiting the marina from Turlock, told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that more than a dozen people were on the vessel at the time of the screeching noise. The luxury yacht didn’t immediately sink, and some people stayed on it for more than an hour after the apparent mishap, she said.
On July 9, a big-screen TV, leather couches and floating slices of bread were visible inside the partially submerged watercraft, which was billed as the largest noncommercial boat on Lake Tahoe as recently as 2006.
Marina managers did not return calls from the Associated Press, and agents listed on the boat’s tourist rental website declined to comment about the situation.
A website detailing the three-stateroom, three-head Sierra Rose for potential charterers said it was inspired by the streamlined luxury vessels of the 1930s, but with state-of-the-art amenities. Features included granite counters, remote-controlled fireplaces, mahogany sole, a spa, and custom crystal and china.
The boat rented for $2,000 a night, according to a brochure from 2008-09, or $8,000 for four hours.
Houghton said the holding tank and fuel tanks were sealed and hadn’t leaked into the lake, but she said inspectors from the county would be on hand to monitor efforts to pull it out of the marina.
While the sunken vessel sat unceremoniously in the water, at least a few homeowners in the area were saying “good riddance.” Several complained to the Reno Gazette-Journal that they thought the yacht was too big, and blocked views of the alpine lake.
“It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,” Tahoe Keys Property Association front desk clerk Ron Parker said, according to the newspaper. “My idea is it was so ugly someone had to sink it.”