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New Carissa sat on Oregon beach for 9 years

I saw some video of a van and camper that got stuck in the surf near Seaside and one of the police officers at the scene called it a “mini-New Carissa.” Is he talking about a shipwreck on the Oregon coast some time ago? If so, what ever happened to it?

— Tom R., Medford

Ah, yes, Tom, those of us here at Since You Asked Central do remember the New Carissa, the Philippines freighter that ran aground on a beach north of Coos Bay, causing the worst oil spill on the Oregon Coast in decades.

Pieces of it lingered on the beach for years as something of a tourist attraction until the state of Oregon ponied up $16.4 million to get the final pieces cut up and hauled off the beach in 2008.

The New Carissa was a 640-foot-long empty freighter bound for Coos Bay to pick up a load of wood chips on Feb. 4, 1999, when it dropped anchor just north of the port to wait out a rough night, with plans to cross the bar the next day, according to media reports.

But just one anchor was dropped and the boat dragged that anchor toward shore without anyone noticing until it was too late. The freighter ran aground on Bastendorff Beach and broke in half a week later, leaking more than 70,000 gallons of fuel oil and diesel. The spill eventually killed more than 1,300 seabirds, including rare marbled murrelets and snowy plovers, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Eventually, the bow of the ship was towed out to sea and sunk, but the stern remained on the beach. The company that owned the boat went broke, so the fuel on the stern was burned off and the rusty metal left stuck in the sand, drawing rubberneckers and others for nine years before contractors hired by the Oregon Department of State Lands hacked it up and hauled it away by barge.

The mini-New Carissa you’re referring to was a van and travel-trailer stuck in the surf at Wednesday Del Ray Beach near Gearhart, where it was pounded by waves for hours, with debris popping out all over the place.

Crews were able to get the trailer out Thursday but the tide came in before the van could be dragged away and the flowing tide overtook it again. A crew finally pulled the van out off the beach Friday afternoon, by which time it was described as “a tangled hunk of metal.”

In both cases, pilot error was determined the cause.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.