1. #1
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    Post Volusia County Fla--Marina Fire Update

    ORLANDO SENTINEL

    911 tape points to galley fire at marina

    By Kevin Connolly and Stephanie Erickson | Sentinel Staff Writers
    Posted July 29, 2003


    DELAND -- Roger Burnup had hoped to find a buyer for his 34-foot houseboat after he fixed it up and took it to the Boat Show Marina less than two weeks ago.

    But Monday, Burnup inspected the charred remains of the Kentucky and figured it only had a few things worth saving, including a rusty anchor and sturdy pontoons. It was one of 28 vessels ravaged by fire early Friday at the marina west of DeLand.

    "Out of the 28, it's the only one left floating," Burnup said Monday after the boat he bought for about $19,000 a year ago was pulled from the water. It wasn't insured.

    "It's a bad loss," said Burnup, who had hoped to sell the custom-made boat for about $20,000.

    "The anchor's still good," he added with a grin Monday as he inspected the charred vessel while the investigation continued into the cause. The blaze caused about $5 million in damage.

    A detective with the State Fire Marshal's Office said investigators are looking into whether a stove was left burning aboard one of the boats.

    That's what a caller reported in a 911 call placed around 2 a.m. Friday.

    "I tried to put it out but I couldn't," the unidentified male caller said, according to a recording of the 911 call. "It started by the stove being on and me being asleep."

    Detective Alan Kaye with the Fire Marshal's Office said officials think the caller was Sammy Leavell, who was the only person injured in the fire. The caller reported sustaining injuries to his hand and foot.

    "The theory that I'm working on is exactly what the 911 tape says," Kaye said.

    But on Monday, Leavell, 21, initially said from Orlando Regional Medical Center that he wasn't responsible and didn't have a stove on the Captain Hook, the 38-foot boat his father gave him and the place he has called home for six months, since moving from Pensacola.

    Later, however, he acknowledged calling 911 and he described what happened. Leavell said he turned on his hot plate, set out some frozen hamburger meat to thaw and fell asleep in the living room while listening to music. Leavall said he woke up about 10 minutes later to find smoke and flames in the galley, where the electric-powered hot plate was. He said he's not sure what caught fire and he said he tried to put it out but it got out of control.

    May leave hospital today

    Leavell said he expects to be released from the hospital today. His right hand and right foot were wrapped thickly in white bandages because of severe cuts on his foot and second- and third-degree burns on his hand. He said he plans to stay with his mother in Mount Dora.

    Officials plan to interview Leavell and inspect the remains of boats at the marina as part of the investigation into the cause of the fire, which Kaye said appears to be accidental.

    The owner of the marina, Ken Hall, said he isn't upset about the fire because it doesn't appear to have been deliberate.

    'Get over' accidents

    "Accidents happen. You just have to get over them," said Hall, 57, who bought the marina about nine years ago after working in the trucking industry. Hall, who lives in Eustis in Lake County, said he's not sure what he will do next because he, too, wasn't insured. He looked into buying insurance at one point but decided he couldn't afford it.

    "Maybe, I'll win the lottery and I won't have to worry about it," Hall said.

    Joe Pandolfi of Deltona visited the marina Monday to check out what remained of his 27-foot Sea Ray that he's had for about six years and calls R&R, which stands for rest and relaxation. He saw little more than a hull and anchor amid the charred remains.

    Never expected a fire

    Pandolfi, a painting contractor, said he had insurance but never expected his boat to go up in flames.

    "I never thought about a fire," said Pandolfi, 53. "I thought about it sinking with a bad storm."

    Officials with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said a contractor doing the cleanup faced delays in hauling out the burned boats because manatees were spotted in the area.

    4 families displaced

    Meanwhile, a spokeswoman with the American Red Cross said the organization is working with four families who were displaced by the fire. Two families received vouchers for hotels and the others didn't need help with lodging, said spokesman Shelley Allen. Allen said the families either didn't want to talk to reporters or couldn't be reached on Monday.

    Stephanie Erickson can be reached at serickson@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5347. Kevin Connolly can be reached at 386-851-7934 or kconnolly@orlandosentinel.com.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    Post Investigation Complete--Cause = Accidental

    Marina fire ruled accidental


    Last update: 02 August 2003


    DELAND -- State fire investigators have determined the fire that destroyed the Boat Show Marina last week was an accident.

    State Fire Marshal Investigator Alan Kaye said Thursday the cause was unattended cooking and no charges would be filed against Sammy Leavell, who reported the fire started on his houseboat.

    Leavell, 21, called 911 to report the blaze that quickly spread to burn and sink 28 boats early July 25. He told an emergency dispatcher he left something on the stove and fell asleep.

    "You could tell he was trying to get help there," Kaye said.

    He said investigators had to go by Leavell's statement, the 911 call and other witness statements because evidence on the boat, which was lifted out of the water Thursday, was destroyed. He said the boat was severely burned, indicating the fire began there.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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