Local Drowns after Driving into Estuary

Alameda Fire Department    A crew aboard the Alameda Fire Department rescue boat helped retrieve a sunken vehicle and its driver from the Estuary last Sunday.

Paul Douglas Scherer of Alameda died Sunday when the minivan he was driving plunged into the Oakland Estuary. Witnesses called 911 about 8:30 a.m. to report that they saw a white minivan go into the estuary off Derby Avenue in Oakland, across from the Bridgeside Shopping Center. 

“It’s a dead-end street that stops at the estuary,” Oakland Fire Department (OFD) Battalion Chief Nick Luby said. “The vehicle drove down the street and ended up in the estuary.”

One witness said that he saw a white minivan driving south on Derby Avenue. “The minivan went up on the sidewalk, over the embankment and into the water. We all watched the minivan slowly sink.”

Dive crews from the San Francisco Fire Department located the van around 9:40 a.m. in about 30 feet of water.

Firefighters from multiple agencies, including the United States Coast Guard, Oakland, Alameda, Alameda County and San Francisco responded. The first responders to arrive were on the scene by 9 a.m., said Luby. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office had crews there within 10 minutes. 

At 10:19 a.m. divers from the San Francisco Fire Department located Scherer and pulled him ashore. According to Luby, paramedics transported Scherer to Highland Hospital “with CPR in progress.” Doctors were unable to save Scherer and pronounced him dead shortly after paramedics arrived. 

Firefighters towed the submerged minivan to a ramp at Fifth Avenue in Oakland, where a tow truck pulled it from the estuary. The case remains under investigation. 

Over the last 12 years two other people lost their lives afterdriving their vehicles into the Oakland Estuary, both from the Alameda side. Dr. Zehra Attari died on Nov. 7, 2005, after driving her car into the estuary at the foot of Grand Street. Authorities say Attari may have taken a wrong turn after getting lost  on her way to a medical conference and accidentally drove down the boat ramp at the foot of Grand Street and  into the estuary.

Her body was not discovered until Dec. 20, 2005. Her car was upside down and buried so deeply that divers could not tell whether anyone was inside. Attari’s family later sued the city and settled for $2.5 million. 

On Dec. 19, 2015, Jeffery Hardt died after he reportedly drove his SUV through the Bridgeside Shopping Center parking lot at Blanding Avenue and Broadway, past Nob Hill Foods. He crashed through a metal railing before sinking into the estuary waters.  

According to witnesses Hardt did not brake on his way into the estuary.