FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – One man was injured and three boats were damaged in an early morning fire in Ft. Lauderdale.
Just after 7:30 p.m. Ft. Lauderdale Fire Rescue got a call about two boats on fire at the Kira-Mar Waterfront Villas & Docks at 77 Hendricks Isles.
“So they said ‘9-1-1, what is your emergency’ and I said ‘there’s a boat on fire on Hendricks Isle,” said witness Debby Eisinger.
Witnesses said they heard a loud boom and felt the ground shake when a 40 foot cabin cruiser named “Chico Malo” caught fire. The flames then jumped to and destroyed a 38 foot sail boat docked next to it. The fire also scorched the side of a third boat docked next to the motor boat.
“I heard a loud boom, it didn’t feel like anything I’d heard before, very scary,” said witness Natalie Tasse.
Fire crews used foam and water in their attack on the fire from both the land and from the water using a boat.
One man who was on the motor boat was taken to Broward Heath Medical Center and then transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s burn unit where he is listed in critical condition.
A witness identified the injured man as Bart Lopresti. He was on the boat with his girlfriend and four year old son when the fire broke out. The couple was visiting the area from New Jersey.
“I can’t get into the details of his injuries but I can tell you they are a serious and consistent with the type of incident we have here,” said Ft. Lauderdale Fire Rescue Division Chief Timothy Heiser.
“I was in bed, I heard the ‘ginormous’ sound, I went running and saw his girlfriend screaming,” said Jade Tasse.
Jade Tasse said she helped pull the four year old to safety.
“All he said was ‘the boat went boom’. I don’t think he fully understood what happened. I’m happy he didn’t,” said Tasse.
Matt Little, a spokesman for the city, said Lopresti was checking out a gasoline smell and went below deck. When he turned on the a bilge pump, it ignited the vapors which sparked the explosion and fire.
Little said fire investigators will get a better handle on what happened after they have better access to the boat.