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Boat Fire Leaves 2 dead, 3 Injured

By: Eva Luo

On August 5th, in Alamitos Bay when a pleasure boat caught on fire around 5:15 p. Two women were killed, and two men and a woman were injured and sent to the hospital, all in their 60s.

Firefighters arrived at 5:17 pm, and dispatched fire trucks and rescue boats. When the firefighters showed up, at 5:17, just two minutes later, the boat was already engulfed in flames.

Jeb Gibbs and Daniel Quinn, who both work at the nearby Crab Pot restaurant, said they heard an explosion. “There was a big bang and I looked up, and there was this ginormous plume of black smoke,” Quinn said.

“Out of nowhere we saw it burst into flames,” Gibbs said.

Monica Solorzano, who works at the Long Beach Yacht Club across the bay from the dock, said she saw flames coming from a boat at the refueling station, which is located in the water about halfway between Naples Island and San Gabriel River. “It was a pretty big flame, lots of smoke,” she said.

Another witness, Cory Valdes, was on a boat nearby when he heard the explosion and then saw the burning power boat. “It was so loud, it shook us. It went up so fast -you are talking ten, fifteen seconds and it was fully engulfed.” One man was quickly able to get off the burning boat and onto the dock, while the other man and a woman jumped into the water, all of whom were later hospitalized from burns.

Valdes and others grabbed a hose to help extinguish the flames until the fire boats arrived with a water cannon. Firefighters struggled to find the two remaining women on the boat, Valdes said.

“You know there are the other two on board, you are hearing yelling, you think you are hearing screaming — it was just a poor, sad situation,” said Valdes, who has retired from the U.S. Coast Guard and is a regular at the marina.

The cause hasn’t been confirmed yet, but Long Beach Fire Department Capt. Jake Heflin said the preliminary reports were that the boat had just finished fueling or was fueling when the fire started. Fueling a boat can be dangerous if fumes are not dissipated before the engine is started.

The submerged vessel was taken to an isolation dock to prevent environmental damage from leaking fuel. Long Beach officials plan to have a private salvaging company remove the boat from the water.


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