No definitive cause found for fatal Palm Beach boat accident

Palm Beach police are continuing to investigate a fatal boating accident that occurred June 30 with assistance from a fire-rescue diver. The boating accident left one man dead and another with serious burns on his hands and face.

Reports of a vessel burning in the waters between the Sailfish Club and the Florida Power & Light plant were called in to the police at about 10:45 a.m. By the time rescue crews responded to the scene, the vessel was already fully engulfed in flames. The two boaters that had been aboard the 35-foot cabin cruiser when it suddenly exploded were found hanging onto another vessel that had stopped to help.

According to reports, the boat exploded after the men attempted to start it up. The boat was anchored at the time but was carried out farther into the water by currents.

One passenger on the boat from West Palm Beach died due to burns that covered about 50 percent of his body. The other passenger was treated at a local hospital for burns and is expected to be released soon, a police sergeant said.

A member of the local dive team went into the water July 1, hoping to find clues regarding the cause of the marine explosion. The diver only had to go about 8 feet underwater to find the wreckage.

He said that he saw the upper deck was burnt and had collapsed into the boat’s interior. Melted copper and aluminum was also found by the diver. He noted that the boat’s hull was filled with gasoline and oil, but the remaining materials were not sufficient to determine a cause for the explosion. “When you have that much damage, it is extremely difficult to determine the cause,” commented the diver.

The diver was also unable to find a name plate, a registration number, or any identifying name painted on the boat. He said that the wreckage may be raised eventually, but there is no timeframe available yet.


Palm Beach Daily News: “One killed, one hospitalized after boat burns near Sailfish club,” Margie Kacoha, Shannon Donnelly and William Kelly, 30 June 2011