Tragic Boat Explosion
Editor's Note: On September 12th,
2009, tragedy struck the Green Turtle Bay Marina when
a pleasurecraft with two boaters exploded after refueling.
While the exact cause of the accident is unknown at
this time, we have some pictures of the event that
circulated the internet. We are sad to report that
the operator of the boat was killed, and his wife suffered
a boat salesman at Rose Island Yacht Club, offers
the following safety advice:
The actual causes of the explosion may never be known.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Diesel fuel has a flash point around 143 degrees
but gasoline is approximately 40 degrees below 0! A
cup a gasoline can equal more than a stick of dynamite
when ignited. Manufactures of boats along with
the equipment have been trying to keep spark and gasoline
away from each other for years. The rest is up
to us boaters.
Some things you can do:
1. Turn off all power before and
during fueling. This includes the generator and blowers.
Think of it this way, electricity is less likely
to spark if it's not flowing.
2. After fueling inspect the bilge area. The exhaust
blower(s) play a very important part, but are designed
to remove fumes and not liquid. And as for you PWC
owners, you're without blowers and fume detector. Gasoline
in the bilge means possible dynamite between your legs.
3. Use marine parts. Things like solenoids, switches,
starters, alternators, etc., are designed in ways to
reduce the chance of releasing a spark into the engine
compartment. Proper marine fuel lines are fire and
permeation resistant. A lot goes into keeping an engine
compartment secure and safe.
4. Turn on exhaust blowers before
starting engines or generator, usually 4 to 5 minutes.
Operate them during stopped and slow cruising speeds
keeping in mind that without good air flow around
the vessel the blowers are the only thing helping
with ventilation. A common mistake made is not operating
the exhaust blowers while at anchor or beached with
a generator running.
5. You can hear the exhaust
blower running but is it moving air? I've found
bird and mud dauber nests and fan blades or vent
hoses off causing loss of air flow. Find the blower
vent and place your hand over it to check air flow.
I will often cub my hand to divert air flow towards
me for a sniff test.
Be more diligent in inspecting your bilge if you have
had any service work done. Engine rooms can be tight
areas to work in for any mechanic. A fuel component
or electrical connection can be easily disturbed while
another part is repaired.
Your webmaster, Eric, adds:
We would like to give credit to
the above pictures to Bob DeGroot, D.C.H. of the
M/V Spirit Dancer, Seabrook, Texas. Also, our prayers
go out to the family of the accident victims.
It is worth noting that an explosive event injured two boaters after re-fueling a gasoline-powered boat behind a home in the Prospect, KY area last fall. The investigation revealed that while the boaters had run the blowers for 3-4 minutes after fueling, they were ineffective due to a birds nest blocking the vent system.
This reinforces the notion that you should not just check your blowers for sound, but also for correct airflow at the vents.
Founder, Port KY
Eric grew up around boats, trading summers on board his parents' Sea Rays for many man-hours of swabbing the decks. He grew up by the little town of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, overlooking the the Dashields Locks and Dam. He has traveled the Great Lakes, Lake Huron's North Channel, Gulf of Mexico and several rivers to include the Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha, Mohawk (Erie Canal), Tennessee, Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Mobile Rivers.
As a commercial pilot, Eric flies jets and is a flight instructor. He has owned recreational boats ranging from PWCs to most recently, a flybridge convertible that he keeps in a Louisville marina (MM 590). You can also find him with his family on the "Escape Pod," an 18' fishing boat. His most memorable journey was aboard the J. S. Lewis, a 155' towboat in service since 1931.
Eric is a USCG Licensed Master with a Commerical Tow Assistance rating, and is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Riverman and the Louisville Sail and Power Squadron. After moving to Louisville, he conceived the idea for Louisville's Port KY website while searching for information to help him become a safer and more knowledgable local boater. He has worked hard over the years to educate other boaters by promoting safety classes through Port KY and by hosting captain's classes and related events.