Fireworks continued after show |

Fireworks continued after show

Gregory Crofton

A boat ramming on the dark waters of Lake Tahoe on Fourth of July caused minor damage to a sailboat and enraged its passengers, but so far the incident has not resulted in any criminal charges.

Glenn Miller, head of environmental science at University of Nevada-Reno, was a passenger on the sailboat. He was collecting water and debris samples as part of a study to determine the impact of fireworks on Lake Tahoe (results of the study are expected early next week).

A small powerboat with two men on board rammed their engine. One of the men tried to grab a bag of debris Miller had collected. The man said he needed to check the material for any live or dangerous items.

He failed to get the bag from Miller but grabbed their anchor and towed the sailboat for several minutes.

Ed Dilley, an longtime Tahoe resident, environmentalist and co-owner of the sailboat, believes the two people in the powerboat were employees of a company hired to put on the firework display.

Dilley said as soon as the firework show was finished, his boat came within about 150 yards of one of the company’s launch barges for Miller to collect samples.

“They asked us to leave. They told us we were in a restricted area,” Dilley said. “We said OK. We started leaving, but we’re a sailboat. We’re about 100 to 150 yards away and out of the night comes another boat with no lights on and it rams us.”

Pyrodigital Consultants, a fireworks company out of Pebble Beach, Calif., put on the display. Ken Nixon, president of the company, said he called police to investigate the “unauthorized intruders,” but he said did not send his employees out to ram the sailboat.

“I didn’t know what they were taking, I just knew they were endangering themselves,” he said. I have to protect public refusing to leave, I have to call the police. I don’t have a problem with environmental issues. They don’t come to me and ask what is going on. Maybe I can make some arrangements for them and make it safe.”

Nixon said the water near the barges remains restricted until all the barges can be checked for explosives. He said that night it took two hours to secure the barges.

South Lake Tahoe Boat Officer Chuck Sohrt investigated the incident the night it occurred. He said Dilley’s boat was in restricted waters but it was not illegal for his boat to be there.

“We went over to see what they picked up,” Sohrt said. “We saw that it was just debris and that the boat got bumped and we saw no damage.”

Asked why he didn’t track down or ticket the captain of the powerboat, Sohrt said: “I had no reason. My opinion was that they scared the guys on the barge and wouldn’t leave. I guess he bumped them slightly and towed them out of there.”

Dilley filed a complaint with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department on July 6. The police said the incident occurred in Nevada waters and handed the case to Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, which in turn handed it off to Nevada Division of Wildlife.

Division of Wildlife Warden Reid Varble said he received a report on the case but has not determined if he is going to file any charges.

Nixon said all of his barges were anchored in California waters, according to his Global Positioning System.

Pyrodigital contracts with SunSports, a South Shore scuba center, to pick debris from the lake bottom after the display.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.