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Bad Day (Speaking of Fuel Tanks)

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Old 10-09-2006, 12:36 PM
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Default Bad Day (Speaking of Fuel Tanks)

Boat explodes in harbor
Two injured in accident; cause of blast not known
BY DANIEL BROWNSTEIN, The Island Packet
Published Monday, October 9, 2006

Thomas Dunning had just refueled at Hilton Head Harbour on Sunday afternoon and was about to head back out on Skull Creek with his wife and four others.


Photo: A 31-foot speed boat exploded Sunday afternoon at Hilton Head Harbour. The boat's owner and his wife were injured.


When he tried to start his 31-foot speed boat, witnesses said, the vessel exploded next to the dock, catapulting seats and other debris into the air and sending his wife to Hilton Head Regional Medical Center with facial injuries.

"It was like a pistol blast it was so loud," said Larry Lariscy, of Sylvania, Ga., a vacationer fishing at a nearby pier. "I was scared to death that someone was killed."

Plumes of thick dark smoke were evident all across Hilton Head Island and the flaming skeleton of the boat was visible from the J. Wilton Graves Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.

Blood from a one-inch gash on Dunning's nose dripped down onto his Ohio State University shirt as he told investigators what happened. He and the other passengers -- who weren't near the boat when it exploded -- then left the scene to check on his wife.


Photo: Flames from the boat left part of the Hilton Head Harbour dock and sign scorched.


Her condition could not be verified Sunday evening, but was not thought to be life-threatening.

Dunning, who lives in Bluffton, stored the Formula Sport Cruiser at Broad Creek Marina. The boat had about 150 gallons of gasoline onboard, said Sean Shrum, civilian controller at the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston.

Flames scorched about 20 feet of the Hilton Head Harbour dock and a sign before the captain of another boat attached a rope to the fully-engulfed vessel and towed it about 150 yards east of the Jenkins Road marina.

Firefighters from the Town of Hilton Head Hilton Head Island Fire and Rescue Division and Bluffton Township Fire District responded at about 2:15 p.m., but were unable to reach the burning boat, which continued to smolder into the evening as it rested against marsh grass.

"With the high tide coming in, hopefully it'll extinguish itself," said Kirk O'Leary, public information officer for the Bluffton department.

Because not much of the boat is left, O'Leary said it will be difficult to determine the cause of the explosion. He said it is possible static electricity triggered the blast.

Bob Stelmack, owner of the marina, suspects a mechanical problem was the culprit.

"My guess is that there was fuel leak," he said, "and when he started the ignition, fuel was pumped onto the hot engine block."

Stelmack said damage to the dock and sign wasn't "serious."

A decision will be made today on whether the boat will be removed.

Lt. Robert McCullough of South Carolina Department of Natural Resources called the incident a rarity.

"Boats catch fire every day, but this is the first one I've heard of that exploded," said McCullough, who has worked at DNR for 25 years.
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Last edited by DaleSC; 10-09-2006 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 10-09-2006, 12:45 PM
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Default Re: Bad Day (Speaking of Fuel Tanks)

Open all hatches and use your bilge blowers everytime you fuel up before starting your boat. An explosive mixture of gasoline vapors is no joke they are lucky to be alive.
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Old 10-09-2006, 01:05 PM
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Default Re: Bad Day (Speaking of Fuel Tanks)

Glad that everyone made it alive! We boated past that marina 2 weeks ago!
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Old 10-09-2006, 01:31 PM
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Default Re: Bad Day (Speaking of Fuel Tanks)

here come the lawyers
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