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Pier reopened after yacht hits it

Newport officials report minimal damage to the structure, and it's back in business the next morning.

September 03, 2013|By Emily Foxhall and Jeremiah Dobruck

Newport Beach officials said Tuesday that the damage done to the Balboa pier when a 50-foot yacht drifted into it is minimal.

A mechanical problem caused the privately owned yacht, called Lucky 7, to lose power Sunday, preventing it from proceeding on its set path, officials said. The vessel, which was also unable to stop and drop its anchor, drifted into the pier about 8 p.m.

None of the estimated 13 people aboard the yacht was injured, according to a Newport Beach Police Department news release, although fog delayed some assistance.

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Newport Beach Fire Department staff, including lifeguards, helped rescue those on board. Lifeguards secured the boat to the pier and then helped passengers into the water and assisted them to shore, according to lifeguard Capt. Brian O'Rourke.

The boat hit the pier multiple times, said Oscar Ruiz, manager of the Ruby's Diner at the end of the pier.

About 30 minutes before the crash, an employee noticed that the yacht seemed closer to the pier than most vessels that travel past, Ruiz said.

When it hit, several of customers said the impact felt like an earthquake. But Ruiz, who is used to the swayings of the pier, continued on with business as usual until officials asked the restaurant employees and patrons to evacuate.

They told him the pier might collapse, he said.

"When somebody tells you the pier is about to go down, you're not going to wait to see if that's true or not," Ruiz said.

A principal city engineer familiar with the pier's construction was on scene Sunday night and returned to assess the damage early Monday morning.

The engineer concluded that the pier was safe to be reopened Monday morning. Only one piece of wood that laterally braces the pier was knocked loose by the boat's impact, said city engineer Pat Thomas.

The Newport Beach maintenance department will assume responsibility for the repair, he said. None of the columns supporting the pier was damaged.

Still, the temporary pier closure significantly hurt earnings for Tacos Cancun, which is across the street.

Sifting through paperwork Tuesday, owner Tina Quiroz explained that Labor Day is the last weekend to make any significant amount of money before the area begins to feel empty during the winter.

"We look forward to the big holiday weekend to make ends meet," Quiroz said. "We had a pathetic weekend."

She explained that even though the pier was closed only overnight, customers had anticipated it would be inaccessible Monday and stayed away.

The Police Department does not plan to investigate the accident, but a boat accident report will be completed according to protocol by Orange County Sheriff's Department's Harbor Patrol, which was responsible for towing the boat.

An initial review found that the boat operator was not intoxicated, said Sgt. Mike Robertson.

A previously scheduled routine investigation of the pier will also be conducted in mid-October.

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