3 arrested after stolen yacht runs aground in Pacifica


Early Monday morning, one of the suspects tried to steer the 82-foot Darling off the sand, but it did not work. By midmorning the keel of the boat was wedged and police were ordering the suspects to give up. The three suspects that were on board were eventually pulled off the boat by lifeguards who were assisting Pacifica police and sheriff's deputies. They were handcuffed and taken away for questioning.

Leslie Gardner, 63, Dario Mora, 54, and Lisa Modawell, 56, were arrested at about noon on suspicion of grand theft and conspiracy, Pacifica Police Capt. Joe Spanheimer said.

Mira and Modawell are from Santa Cruz. Mira was arrested in January for public intoxication and Modawell was arrested last December on a DUI charge. Pacifica police are checking to see if they knew the yacht's owner.

"So the biggest concern was whether they had weapons or not; and we had no way of knowing that and knowing what their intentions would be, so we were pretty concerned about that," California State Parks lifeguard Tim Fillars said.

The lifeguards said there were a couple of cases of beer below deck, though most of it had not been opened.

The owner of the yacht wasn't willing to talk with reporters but his wife called ABC7 News Monday morning after seeing the yacht on television. The owner is Santa Rosa resident John Fruth, the founder of Ocular Sciences -- a soft contact lens company in Concord.

The Darling is a very expensive sailboat. Another built by the same company in the same year is listed at $2.7 million.

The last time the boat was available for charter was in 2009; the going rate then was between $31,000 and $34,000 a week.

The man in charge of getting it off the beach is Tim Parker of Parker Diving Service.

"The dangers with this vessel is the hull is a stout hull but it has a 10-foot keel on it," Parker said. "That vessel is standing on that keel, rocking side by side."

The good news is The Darling is still intact. Parker says the goal is to slowly try and move her into position and when the tide gets high enough, gently pull her free. Salvage crews say it could take until 5 a.m. to free the yacht. They called in a more powerful tugboat on Monday night.

"We've got the power if it'll hold. But the idea is to get a whole complete boat. No holes, no nothing," said Parker.

Back at the Sausalito marina, some sailors wondered how the boat thieves had the skill to navigate a luxury super yacht out of the marina, but still manage to run it aground.

"It's no small feat to take a boat of this size out of a slip and out of a bay," said Travis Lund, The Sunsail base manager. "Something either went drastically wrong for them, or they didn't know what they were doing, but they certainly had the wherewithal to take it out of this marina."

The salvage crews hope the high tide will lift the boat so the tugboat can gently pull it out of the sand and take it back to the San Francisco Bay and drop it off at a marine yard in Richmond.

ABC7 News reporter Alan Wang contributed to this story.

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