powerboat aground at MB fireworks

Passengers onboard the 45-foot power boat Gigi LaLa with law enforcement in Manhattan Beach after the boat went aground Sunday night, Dec. 8, during the annual holiday fireworks show. (Photo by Wayne Powell)

The annual holiday fireworks show in Manhattan Beach Sunday night, Dec. 8, received an added spectacle this year when a 45-foot power boat ran aground near the pier during the middle of the pyrotechnic display.

The six people on board made it off the boat and safely on to the beach, with the help of lifeguards, officials said. No one was injured. And the boat was towed back to King Harbor, in Redondo Beach, said the vessel’s captain, Dana Laurence.

“Rescue Boat Redondo worked with land based crews to pull the vessel back through the surfline,” Los Angeles County Lifeguards reported on Twitter. “The quick action by responding crews kept the vessel from hitting the pier and causing major damage.”

Hundreds of folks lined the Manhattan Beach shore Sunday evening for the annual holiday display, which went off around 7 p.m. Laurence, meanwhile, had anchored the 45-foot Sea Ray powerboat, named the Gigi LaLa, about 300 yards off the beach, near the Manhattan Beach Pier; he and a group of five others were on the boat to watch the fireworks, as they do nearly every year.

The conditions were on the rougher side, however. As soon as the fireworks started blasting into the sky, Laurence said, the anchor alarm on the boat went off. That’s when he realized the boat was drifting toward the pier.

A crew member tried to haul in the anchor, Laurence said, but it appeared the windlass — or winch used to pull the line in — was not working. So Laurence, 57, fired up the engines and put the boat in gear.

That’s when the anchor line, slack at this point and floating in the water, wrapped around the right-side prop engine and shut it down, leaving the 39,000-pound boat with only one engine.

“The boat started turning toward the pier,” Laurence said. “So I put the port engine in reverse and was able to parallel the beach and pull away from the pier.”

After the engine died, Laurence called for help. That call came into the Los Angeles County Fire Department around 7:10 p.m., said agency spokesman Chris Thomas.

Two lifeguards, meanwhile, had seen what was occurring and swam out to the boat. When the lifeguards neared the vessel, Laurence turned the port engine off and the boat swung back toward the pier.

He turned the engine back on a few moments later, after one of the swimmers got on board; that caused the boat to turn into the surf, Laurence said.

“A bad wave hit us and it came over the bow,” he said. “At that point, we were in the surf and didn’t get hit by another outside rogue wave or it would have been bad. Two seconds later, we were on the beach.”

The boat’s bottom hit the sand, Laurence said, just as the fireworks grand finale had begun.

“The guy on the radio said it sounded like a war zone,” Laurence said.

For those watching the fireworks, though, the boat going aground was almost like a second finale, joked former Manhattan Beach Councilman Wayne Powell, who witnessed the incident.

“You could actually hear a silence in the crowd,” Powell said Monday morning, Dec. 9. “Everybody was shouting and screaming, excited about the fireworks, when all of a sudden, it got real quiet.”

About 45 minutes later, two boats — one from Redondo Harbor Patrol, the other from Marina Del Rey — pulled the Gigi LaLa off the beach and back to the harbor. Laurence said none of the passengers were hurt, though they were shaken, and the boat appeared to be in good shape — aside from a lot of cleanup work needed down below.

“All I was worried about was getting everyone safely to the beach,” Laurence said.

“You try to think through it All sand do the right thing,” he added. “What a great job the lifeguards did.”

Staff writers Tyler Evains and Emily Rasmussen contributed to this story.

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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