Authorities were at first dispatched on Monday morning to save a wayward sailboat off the northern California coastal city of Pacifica. But hours into the odd rescue, the three aboard a sailboat named the Darling were arrested after the 82-foot boat was reported stolen from Sausalito, an affluent city about 20 miles away.
Two men and a woman were arrested about noon, following about five hours of drama and mystery that spanned 20 miles from Marin County to the shores off the San Mateo County coast.
The suspects eventually surrendered and were brought to shore by foot or jet ski. Police later identified them as: Leslie Gardner, 63 of Gillette, Wy.; along with Dario Mira, 54 and Lisa Modawell, 55, both of Aptos. They were booked into San Mateo County jail on suspicion of grand theft and conspiracy.
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State park water rescue lifeguards said when they went aboard, they found a couple cases of Pale Ale beer and cardboard boxes of pizza. One of the suspects had a prosthetic leg.
The owner of the stolen sailboat arrived on scene Monday afternoon, but declined all media requests, saying that he didn't want the notoriety.
Their arrests capped a harrowing morning for the Coast Guard, Department of Fish and Game, San Mateo County sheriff's deputies, as well as Pacifica and Sausalito police.
The sail boat was first reported being in distress at about 5:30 a.m. at the Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica with two men and a woman on board. The boat was about 20 yards from the beach.
But surprisingly, the trio did not want to be brought to shore; instead they were hoping to sail back out to sea at high tides, authorities said during the early morning hours.
That's most likely because Sausalito police said that a sailboat had been reported missing about 1:30 a.m. The owner of a boat spotted what looked like his craft on television news. Police said that the boat may have been stolen out of Sausalito.
Sausalito Sgt. Bill Fraass said that the sailboat is registered out of the Cayman Islands but docks at the Sausalito Yacht Harbor.
The Coast Guard, the San Mateo County Sheriff and Pacifica police were all on hand trying to get the passengers to come to shore. By 11 a.m., authorities had surrounded the edge of the beach near the sailboat. One of the passengers was heard saying, "Not gonna happen."
The scene began though as a simple rescue of a stranded sailboat on a sandbar at Linda Mar Beach. About 5:30 a.m., cameras caught the trio on board trying to rock the sailboat loose from the sand bar. The Department of Fish and Game was keeping an eye on the boat, which was carrying fuel, and the agency wanted to make sure that none of it seeped into the water. None did.
The U.S. Coast Guard had arrived by 7 a.m. in order to help. The Coast Guard sent in a 47-foot life boat crew to reach the passengers, but couldn't because of the surf. And the boaters apparently did not want to be pulled ashore, but were considering trying to float back out to sea.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter lowered down radios about 8 a.m. But the people on the boat chose not to communicate with authorities.