Chance of another oil spill looms on Peninsula coast

A commercial fishing vessel ran aground in Pescadero early Thursday morning, nearly stranding two men and putting the Pigeon Point State Park area at risk of an oil spill from the vessel.

At approximately 1:15 a.m., the U.S. Coast Guard received a distress call from the 35-foot Lou Denny Wayne commercial fishing boat from Santa Cruz. The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office was also called in, and officers rescued fisherman Gabriel Riddle, 21, from the water.

The captain, Santa Cruz fisherman Leo Morelli, was airlifted to San Francisco International Airport.

Sheriff’s Lt. Marc Alcantara said the boat’s occupants lost control of the vessel and drifted into the rocks just south of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Morelli did not return calls for comment from The Examiner.

Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Anya Hunter said the vessel did not sink, but rather ran aground and became stuck in a rocky area. According to the Coast Guard, Morelli said there could have been up to 600 gallons of diesel fuel onboard. However, Hunter said no spills were detected.

But because the fuel poses a “substantial threat to the environment,” the Coast Guard hired the Parker Diving company to pump the fuel out of the vessel’s hold before it is moved, a process that will involve a diver entering the boat to attach hoses to pump the fuel up the 100 foot cliffs overlooking the area.

Once the Lou Denny Wayne can be stabilized enough to allow a diver safely onboard, Parker Diving will begin removing the fuel.

Pigeon Point itself takes its name from another shipwreck, the Carrier Pigeon vessel that hit rocks and sank in 1853 off the point.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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