East Bay

Richmond couple on ship stuck in Antarctica

An adventurous elderly couple is going to have an icy New Year after an excursion ship the pair took down to Antarctica got stuck in the ice.

George and Norma Trillia of Richmond were two of 74 tourists, scientists and crew members stuck aboard the Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy, said the Trillias' neighbor, Jane Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said the couple has gone on other exotic vacations in the past, but that it came as a shock to learn the pair had been trapped in Antarctic waters for more than a week.

"I was thinking 'There must be a lot of ships that go down there this time of year,' but as it turns out, it is only this one," Gonzalez said. "And it turns out, they are on that one ship."

Crew members had hoped Australian icebreaker ship the Aurora Australis would be able to crack through the thick ice and allow the research vessel to continue on its way. But bad weather forced the Australis to retreat to open water.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said Tuesday a helicopter on board a Chinese icebreaker would be able to rescue the 52 passengers when the weather clears. However, that was not expected to happen before the new year arrives.

The crew said it plans to stay behind with the ship until the ice breaks up naturally.

-- Katie Nelson, Staff


New year arrives with Spare the Air advisory

Poor air quality will waft into the new year as the 24th Spare the Air alert of the winter season was issued for Wednesday.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has banned wood burning both indoors and outdoors on Jan. 1, making it illegal to burn wood, manufactured fire logs or solid fuels for 24 hours.

The wood-burning ban will be in effect for Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, southern Sonoma and southwestern Solano counties.

The winter Spare the Air season lasts until Feb. 28.

-- Katie Nelson, Staff


Police seeking man who robbed US Bank branch

Police are searching for a robber who held up a San Leandro bank on Monday.

No one was injured in the afternoon heist, reported about 4:30 p.m. at the US Bank at 1585 E. 14th St., Lt. Robert McManus said. Bank employees told officers a white man in his mid-20s to early 30s, casually dressed and wearing a baseball hat, entered the bank and approached a teller window, McManus said.

The suspect, who police say was not armed, then handed a teller a note demanding money. No weapon was seen, McManus said.

The teller handed the robber an undisclosed amount of cash, and the suspect walked out of the bank, police said.

-- Natalie Neysa Alund, Staff


Police technology falls short, auditor reports

More than a year after slamming police oversight of its technology systems, Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby said the department has made insufficient progress carrying out her recommendations.

In a follow-up report released Tuesday, Ruby faulted the department for still not having finalized a long-term technology plan or a process to evaluate the systems it has purchased.

The department has fully implemented only six of the 22 recommendations made in Ruby's August 2012 report. Ten of the recommendations have been partially implemented; six have not yet been implemented.

But City Administrator Deanna Santana said the update ignored several key developments. She said the department was closing in on hiring a full-time police technology director, moving forward on several new systems, including one for records management, and had begun hiring outside project managers to oversee big projects.

Ruby's initial audit found that over the five previous years the police department had squandered nearly $2 million on technology systems that were never used or underutilized. City officials had disputed Ruby's figures, maintaining that just under $600,000 had been misspent.

-- Matthew Artz, Staff