Tuesday, May 30, 2017

32-foot long boat exploded, caught fire and sunk at the Harborage at Ashley Marina in Charlston, SC; another boat damaged by the fire


Authorities are working to figure out what caused a boat to explode and catch fire at the Harborage at Ashley Marina Monday morning.

Charleston Firefighters and EMS were called to the marina at 9:53 a.m., according to the Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch Center.

Firefighters arrived within five minutes and reported a 32-foot recreational boat in the water near fuel docks was well-engulfed, Charleston City Chief Fire Marshal Michael Julazadeh said.

A second boat, a 50-foot recreational boat, and a portion of the dock, was also on fire.

The first boat sank at the dock because of the damage it sustained, Julazadeh said. Authorities say two people on board the 32-footer were able to escape the fire.

Firefighters from the dock and Marine 101 were able to extinguish the fire and control damage to the immediate area, Julazadeh said.

Officials from the hazmat team and the Coast Guard responded to assist with containing fuel spilled from the vehicles that caught fire.

Those crews placed containment booms, temporary floating barriers, in the water to control any possible fuel leaks.

Witnesses say they heard an explosion before the boat caught fire and sank.

Matthew Chase who works at the marina said he was fueling up the boat right before the flames erupted.

"I stepped back like we always do, standard procedure and then he went to start the boat and it must have sparked something and it blew up," Chase said.

He said he feared there would be another explosion.

"Just crazy, I know that they say when it blows up it may blow up again," Chase said."There's a lot of fuel lines, a whole bunch of fuel even up here so I ran pretty far away."

The smoke could be seen rising above the James Island Connector and from Glenn McConnell Parkway in West Ashley.

"I'm really glad our dock wasn't closer," said Wanda Temple who has lived at the marina for 17 years. "I smelled it and then when I came out I saw the smoke and didn't hear boom. Actually it was really just the smell of fuel in the air."

Chase says he's glad no one was hurt.

Units with Charleston, North Charleston, Saint Andrews Fire Department, Charleston EMS and Charleston PD were dispatched to the scene, he said.

A woman who has lived at the marina for the last 17 years said nothing like this has ever happened since she has been there.

Fire investigators have responded to the scene to assess damage.No injuries were reported, Julazadeh said.


A fire that sent a massive plume of thick, black smoke into the air above a Charleston marina on the Ashley River sank one boat and damaged another Monday morning.

Two or three people were on a 32-foot recreational boat when it caught fire in the water near the fuel docks at the Harborage at Ashley Marina, Charleston interim Fire Chief John Tippett said.

“They’re kind of in shock, but they’re not injured,” he said of the occupants, who escaped before the boat sank.

The front of an adjacent 50-foot boat and a portion of the dock were also damaged in the fire. Tippett said the second boat is salvageable. No one was on that vessel at the time.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

With a strong odor of fuel after a boat fire was extinguished, a U.S. Coast Guardsman assesses fuel in the water at the Harborage at Ashley Marina on Monday, May 29, 2017. Wade Spees/Staff By Wade Spees

Elizabeth Plasters was in the cabin of her boat tied up one dock over when she heard what sounded like metal clanking. She first thought one boat had struck another boat. Then she saw smoke and flames in the fuel tank of the 32-foot boat.

“It was just a little bit, but then within two minutes the whole thing just started. We were just sitting there all crunched up going, ‘Oh no! No!’ And the whole thing started going, and then it burned the lines and started floating,” Plasters said. “I’ve never seen one go down quite like that.”

The boat was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived within five minutes of receiving the 911 call at 9:55 a.m.

A plume of smoke extended over the James Island Connector. Firefighters had the blaze under control within about 10 minutes.

The U.S. Coast Guard responded and assisted with putting containment devices in the water for fuel leaks.

“We’re putting booms out in conjunction with the Coast Guard and have contacted a private contractor to assist also,” Tippett said.

By the early afternoon, families gathered at the marina and waited for the docks to reopen. Richard and Jan Massey stood with a 12-pack of Diet Coke and flowers, which they planned to share with friends while working on projects on their boat.

The couple saw smoke while driving in from West Ashley on U.S. Highway 17. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles lined a portion of Lockwood Drive near the marina.

“We just saw the smoke billowing up. There was a lot of black smoke and flames," Richard Massey said. "Pretty intense heat."