GASTON COUNTY, N.C. -- Wildlife officers credit quick action and proper equipment for saving eight people whose boat caught fire on Mountain Island Lake Sunday.
Senior officer Tyler Campbell of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission said the 19-foot Monterey had eight people on board, including two children, as it left the Riverbend Access Area. When the driver throttled up, he heard an explosion, said Campbell.
(Click here to view photos from the scene)
Everyone on board grabbed life jackets and jumped onto another boat that pulled up to them, he said.
“If they didn't have somebody close by to rescue them from their vessel, it could have been a very dangerous situation,” said Campbell, “especially if they had had kids on board that didn't have life jackets.”
“It was a little intense, a little intense,” said Ashley Hefner, who had just arrived at the boat landing with some friends when she saw the boat on fire.
“There was a little small flame coming from this,” she said as she showed cell photos of the boat. “Then all of a sudden it was engulfed in flames, the whole entire top of the boat was completely engulfed in flames.”
Officer Campbell said the family that owned the boat had just bought it four days earlier, and this was only the second time they had taken it out on the lake. He didn’t release the owner’s name because the fire is still under investigation.
The owner hadn’t even purchased insurance yet, said Campbell, but he did stock the boat with all the right equipment.
“They had all their life jackets on board, their fire extinguisher, all their safety equipment,” said Campbell, talking about the things Wildlife officers check for during routine safety checks.
“If they had to jump off into the water with no life jackets it could have been a very dangerous situation for all of them.”