Saturday, June 16, 2007
A large private boat exploded, caught fire and sank tonight at the St. Paul Yacht Club on the Mississippi River across from downtown. Eight people were injured in the accident, which occurred shortly after 8 p.m. at a fueling dock near the High Bridge. Jim Hoops, an employee with Kath Fuel Oil Service Co., said he saw the incident: the boat had just finished fueling and had been tied up when a blast loosened the craft's moorings and knocked several of the passengers into the water. The rest, he believed, leapt into the river for fear of another explosion and a growing fire. Hoops and other witnesses said that the passengers all apparently made their way out of the water and that most appeared to be conscious. The boat continued to drift and burn as help rushed to the scene.Fire officials said they believed three men and four women were on the craft and that the boat's ignition had been malfunctioning when someone on the boat apparently started an auxiliary generator and ignited fuel vapors. Authorities believed two of the boat's female occupants had been seriously injured, one with facial lacerations and the other with a leg injury. A dock worker near the fueling facility was also reportedly blown into the river by the force of the blast. All the boat's occupants were taken to Regions Hospital, according to District Fire Chief Jim Syvertsen. The boat was partially submerged, but it appeared that river water extinguished the flames.