Herald Tribune

Boater recovering from burns

William Robertson doesn't know why his motor exploded Sunday, burning him and forcing him overboard.


By KARA CHALMERS
kara.chalmers@heraldtribune.com


ENGLEWOOD -- A 47-year-old Englewood man remained in serious condition Monday afternoon after suffering burns when his motorboat exploded Sunday morning.

William Robertson was taken to Tampa General Hospital Sunday with second-degree burns covering 12 percent of his body, including his arms, leg, and face.

Emergency workers who treated Robertson at the scene of the explosion originally reported that his body was more than 50 percent burned.

From the hospital's intensive care unit Monday, Robertson said doctors have told him he could be released by the end of the week.

Robertson said he was preparing to take his boat out Sunday morning when he flipped back the engine cover and saw that rain water had gotten in the night before. He said he turned on pumps to get rid of the water but they were running slowly. He said he thought the battery might be dying and turned on the engine to charge it. That's when he smelled gas, he said.

"I smelled gas and before I could turn the motor off, it blew up," Robertson said.

Robertson said that he didn't know why the explosion occurred but that it caused him to immediately catch fire.

"I dove into the water because I was on fire," he said.

The boat was docked in a canal behind 1651 Riverside Drive, a relative's house, Robertson said. He said he had just put the boat in the water there on Saturday.

Emergency workers arrived on the scene around 9:30 a.m. and reported that the boat was engulfed in flames.

Robertson was taken by helicopter to Tampa General.

The state fire marshal's office has determined that the fire was accidental, according to spokeswoman Lt. Tammy White. White said gas vapors from the boat's engine area were ignited by sparks in the engine.

Robertson, an electrician who lives in the 600 block of Edwards Street, said he's been boating for "quite a while."