Fuel Leak Suspected in Decatur Boat Explosion

Boating is an enjoyable recreational activity for many Americans.  Whether those boating are fishermen, water skiers, swimmers or those who just like to jet or sail around a lake or river for the pleasure of the outdoors, boating it an increasingly popular way to spend one’s free time.  Unfortunately, there are dangers associated with this enjoyable activity that are sometimes misunderstood or, in other cases, ignored.

One of those dangers associated with boats and other marine craft is that of fire and explosions.  According to the U.S. Coast Guard, fires and explosions account for the largest single cause of marine property damages.  The hazards exist because of the presence of flammable liquids present within confined, poorly ventilated spaces.  Gasoline is used to propel most private marine crafts and presents the most common hazard in that it can be released into boat compartments as a result of equipment failure, spills and improper storage of fuel.  A small gasoline leak or spill can present a significant hazard of explosion and fire.

Unfortunately for a group of Alabama boaters, they found out just how explosive marine fuel can be this past Sunday morning in Decatur when their boat exploded at a marina on the Tennessee River.

Alabama Marine Police Officer Larry Adams told The Decatur Daily that one woman, Lavon Pike, was taken to Huntsville Hospital for treatment of burns received in the explosion.  Pike was one of eight passengers on the boat, according to Adams, which included three men, three women and two boys.  Six people were aboard the boat and two were standing beside the boat when the explosion occurred.  The Sea Ray Sundancer 270 had just been refueled before the explosion, which is why police suspect that a fuel leak was the cause of the explosion.  Two people were blown off the boat into the water by the force of the explosion.  Adams stated it was fortunate that more people were not injured by the explosion.

When refueling a boat, preventative measures need to be taken.  The fueling needs to take place under proper lighting conditions, with no open flames or smoking in the area.  All electrical and power equipment should be closed, and the individual fueling the boat needs to maintain continuous contact of the fueling nozzle to the filling port to eliminate the possibility of static discharge.  Those people not involved in fueling the boat should stand clear of the area in case of an explosion. 

Preventative measures to prevent explosions in boats include proper ventilation, proper refueling methods, avoiding spillage and overflow, periodic inspection of fuel systems, use of inflammable materials of construction and installation of fire suppression equipment.