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Three-story, multimillion-dollar yacht sinks in Lake Tahoe marina; no injuries

AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Emerson Marcus

The Sierra Rose, a luxury yacht, is partially submerged at its Tahoe Keys Marina dock in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. on Monday.

Witnesses at the Tahoe Keys Marina say they heard screeching, the sound of tearing metal, and a passenger yell, "oh, no!" late Sunday night. 

By about 3 a.m. Monday, a three-story, $3.2 million yacht so big that it has its own helicopter pad was sunk, one end of it touching the South Lake Tahoe marina bottom at a Titanic-esque tilt. 

It's still not clear what sent the Sierra Rose to the lake bed, where it remained Wednesday waiting for a private contractor to remove it in the next few days. 

Witness Heather Contreras, who was visiting the marina from Turlock, Calif., told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that more than a dozen people were on the vessel at the time when they heard what sounded like "a loud and prolonged tearing of metal." The boat, which The Daily Tribune reported is 86 feet long, didn't immediately sink; Contreras said some people stayed on it for more than an hour after the apparent mishap. 

Nobody was injured, marina general manager Robert Spinnato said. South Lake Tahoe police are investigating, but likely won't know what caused the sinking until the vessel is lifted above water, Lt. David Stevenson told The Daily Tribune. 

On Monday, a big-screen TV, leather couches and floating slices of bread were visible inside the partially submerged watercraft, which was billed as the largest noncommercial boat on Lake Tahoe as recently as 2006. 

Agents listed on the boat's tourist rental website declined to comment to The Associated Press and msnbc.com about the situation. 

A website detailing the three-room, three-bathroom Sierra Rose for potential renters says it's inspired by the streamlined luxury vessels of the 1930s, but with state-of-the-art amenities. Features include granite counters, remote-controlled fireplaces, mahogany floors, a spa and custom crystal and china. 

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The boat rented for $2,000 a night, according to a brochure from 2008-09, or $8,000 for four hours. 

El Dorado County Environmental Health Manager Barbara Houghton said the sewage and fuel tanks were sealed and hadn't leaked into the lake, but she said inspectors from the county would be on hand to monitor efforts to pull it out of the marina. 

While the sunken vessel sat unceremoniously in the water, at least a few homeowners in the area were saying good riddance. 

Several complained to the Reno Gazette-Journal that they thought the yacht was too big and blocked views of the alpine lake. 

"It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen," Tahoe Keys Property Association front desk clerk Ron Parker said, according to the newspaper. "My idea is it was so ugly someone had to sink it." 

Others complained to the Gazette-Journal that the yacht's size -- which is what apparently kept it from completely sinking -- blocked views in the area.

The Sierra Rose was sold at auction in 2008 for $3.2 million to an unidentified buyer who outbid more than 40 other potential investors, according to the Gazette-Journal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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