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Authorities investigate boat explosion

POSTED: May 18, 2008 5:01 a.m.
JIM DEAN /Times Regional Staff

The burned out remains of a sailboat that caught fire while refueling at Bald Ridge Marina Saturday sits along the shore.

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One of three people burned when a boat caught fire while refueling Saturday morning at Bald Ridge Marina remained hospitalized Tuesday, friends said.

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said the three-person boating party was taken to Northside Hospital-Forsyth, where a woman and one of two injured men were treated for first-degree burns and scrapes and bruises.

The second man was later taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for further treatment of second-degree burns to his torso, chest, hands and feet, as well as first-degree burns to his back.

Shivers said the boaters had pulled up to the fueling island at the marina and were in the process of pumping gas. Fire officials have not determined what sparked the fire, but it appears vapors in the boat’s engine compartment ignited.

Authorities declined to confirm the identities of the boating party. But Gary Bump, who said he was a "close, personal friend" of the burn victims, said two of the three have returned home while the third remains at Grady.

Buddy Gault, who keeps his boat at the marina, said he was driving on Ga. 400 when he saw smoke and went to see what was going on.

"I just stood in the parking lot and watched, but I think about half the county fire department showed up," he said.

Gault said he recognized the boat, but didn’t know the people on it.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s safe when you fuel up, but there are precautions to take," he said, adding that boats have a blower, or fan, that pulls air out of the engine compartment.

"I heard that this guy had his blower on ... but he must’ve had a leak somewhere and those things happen," he said.

Shivers said the fire destroyed the boat and fuel pump and badly damaged the dock.

"If it had been in the middle of the lake, we wouldn’t have been able to get to it because we don’t have a fire boat," he said. "In this case, he was docked up against a fuel island and he was tied in."

Shivers said the tethers had burned, but the boat floated near the dock.

"We were able to stretch hose lines from shore off our fire engine down to it," he said.

Firefighters got the blaze under control, Shivers said, then "tied ropes to [the boat] and ... basically walked along the dock and pulled it around to the shoreline.

"We wanted to get it away from the dock as quickly as we could," he said.

Shivers said a new fire engine with a compressed air foam system, specifically designed for such incidents, was used to put out the fire.



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