Stuart News

Boat explodes at marina; 3 injured
28-foot boat explodes at dock as men are setting off after lobster.

By Nicole Janok staff writer
July 31, 2003

PORT SALERNO -- A lobstering expedition took an ugly turn Wednesday afternoon when three men were injured in a boat explosion at Port Salerno Marina.

Pieces of the 28-foot Sportcraft floated in the murky marina water as the severely charred boat, covered in foam, bobbed at the dock.

Firefighters walked cautiously over a severely damaged 50-foot portion of the dock as they hosed down the smoldering boat and dock and diverted water-borne traffic.

Cookie Lardizzone, mother of boat owner Mike Lardizzone, stood on a parallel dock staring at her son's vessel in disbelief.

"Hey, where are you going with my boat?" she joked to a man who walked by carrying small wooden pieces blown off the boat.

Although Lardizzone managed a chuckle, the family was distraught about the accident that sent her son to Martin Memorial South Hospital with burns on his legs.

Another man in the boat was airlifted to St. Mary's Medical Center with severe burns, while the third victim walked away virtually unscathed and refused medical attention, District Fire Chief Cliff Appe said.

The first day of the lobster mini-season turned tragic elsewhere Wednesday, when a diver died in 15 feet of water at Biscayne National Park in Miami-Dade County.

The man was with two groups of divers, who noticed around 7:30 a.m. that he was on the bottom and not moving, Miami-Dade police Detective Randy Rossman said. The other divers brought the man to the surface and called state and federal authorities in the park.

The man was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he was pronounced dead, Rossman said. Police identified him as Randy Kruse, 43, but did not release his address.

The boat explosion happened when Mike Lardizzone started the engine and thought the boat was bogged down, Cookie Lardizzone said.

He gave the boat more throttle and the boat exploded, knocking the men into the water, she said.

Martin County Fire Prevention and state fire investigators on Wednesday evening were trying to determine what caused the explosion, Appe said.

Shortly after the boat exploded, concerned residents ran toward the cloud of dark smoke that blanketed the dock and nearby boats.

Off-duty Martin County Fire-Rescue Lt. Matt Himes saw the smoke and ran to the scene to help the men and set up hoses to control the fire.

"When they see smoke, they come running, no matter what," Diane Himes said.

Residents near the marina also came running after they heard the loud explosion, which shook the walls of houses more than two blocks away.

"I thought it was lightning, but I saw no flash," said Maureen Cantley, who was startled when the explosion rumbled through her home.

Cantley and her son, Frank Grisman, 12, ran toward the marina to see what had happen.

Selina Bentz, who was visiting a friend near the marina, also joined a crowd of onlookers at the small port.

"I seen the smoke and I came; it was a loud explosion," Bentz said. "This poor guy was running, burned really bad."

- nicole.janok@scripps.com