Three injured when boat explodes

By Connie Piloto, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 2, 2004

Three people were injured Thursday when the boat they were riding in caught fire in a canal off the Intracoastal Waterway in Riviera Beach.

Investigators said an explosion in the engine compartment sparked the fire in the 23-foot boat, which had been docked behind a house in the 3600 block of Palm Drive.

Boat operator Savoy Berryman, 32, had just left the dock with six family members and a dog when the explosion occurred, said Atwell Pride, an investigator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Berryman, his passengers and the dog jumped into the water and swam to safety.

Matthew Berryman, 25, sustained first- and second-degree burns over 50 percent of his body.

A 17-year-old girl sustained lesser burns, and another 17-year-old injured her ankle. All three were taken to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach.

Investigators said Savoy Berryman vented the inboard gasoline engine of the boat before leaving the dock behind his house.

"The operator did everything he was supposed to do," Pride said. "The boat was 30 to 50 feet away from the dock when the explosion happened."

The state fire marshal's office also is investigating the fire.