Watercraft explosion rocks quiet neighborhood in Boca

Officers, fire rescue stop small craft from doing further damage

Friday, January 3, 2003
by Aaron

Ron Edgars was spending a quiet Thursday morning cleaning his pool behind his Boca Raton home when he heard an explosion.
“I saw smoke rising into the air,” he said.
Edgars dashed a couple of blocks over to his neighbor’s home at 1550 S.W. Sixth Ave., where he saw people running and screaming. Just moments earlier a small fishing boat in a canal behind the home had exploded.
“The gas tank [had] exploded,” Edgars said. “[The boat] started drifting down the waterway. It ran into another boat and that one caught on fire.”
When Boca Raton fire rescue and police personnel arrived at the scene, the flaming boat was heading south down the canal.
Officer Samuel Tatum, one of the first to arrive at the canal, said the fire burned through the mooring rope, allowing the boat to float freely through the waterway. He and another officer ran along the canal hoping to secure the drifting and burning craft.
“We tried to keep it away from other boats and away from property. It was fully inflamed. The smoke was intense,” Tatum said. “We were using long 2-by-4s and those long, aluminum nets for cleaning pools. We were able to pull it toward the concrete seawall. We were able to contain it behind a residence.”
While officers were trying to stop the movement of the boat, residents along the canal used garden hoses to spray it and try to put the fire out, said Michelle Harold, another witness. One of the residents had fallen into the water while trying to put out the fire. Tatum pulled him out.
“We had to help a kid out of the water,” he said.
Fire rescue workers eventually extinguished the fire, which had charred the boat to a crisp. The other boat only sustained minor damage.
Fire Rescue Lt. Frank Montilli said the cause of the fire was an engine malfunction.