Boaters, including 2 children, burned after explosion in Huntington Beach

Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
An explosion led to a boat fire Sunday afternoon near Peter’s Landing in Huntington Harbour. (Huntington Beach Fire Department)

A boater touted by authorities as a good Samaritan helped six people to safety after a boat they were on caught fire following an explosion Sunday afternoon in Huntington Beach, local officials said.

Half a dozen people were aboard the boat in Huntington Harbour, near Peter’s Landing, around 1 p.m. Sunday when the craft caught fire, Huntington Beach Fire Department spokesman Eric Blaska said in a statement.

All six people aboard — including two children, ages 7 and 3 — ended up in the water, though it was unclear whether they jumped or the blast pushed them in, Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun said. In addition to the two children, four adults — ranging in age from 36 to 70 — were on the boat when the explosion occurred, Sgt. Dennis Breckner said.

“They were just on their voyage for a short time in the middle of the harbor when it exploded,” Breckner said. The boat’s owner swam to a nearby dock to call for help, according to a news release.

The explosion was likely caused by a spark that ignited fume-filled air in the boat’s hull, Breckner said. A fuel leak may have dripped into the boat compartment, creating a dangerous fire risk, he said.

“We call boats big bombs that float around,” Breckner said.

Another boater who was nearby, identified by KCBS-TV Channel 2 as Trent McWhinney, jumped into his dingy and pulled alongside the burning boat — a 35-foot power boat named “Neptune” — to help pull the victims to safety.

“I ran to that boat,” McWhinney told the station. “I don’t care about the boat. I care about the people in the boat.”

The “good Samaritan,” as Blaska called him in the news release, took the group to a dock near the Warner Fire Station. They were then taken to a local hospital for treatment of burn injuries that ranged from 5% to 50% of their bodies, Breckner said. The 7-year-old suffered the worst burns, he added.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Breckner said, they found the boat “smoldering” and sprayed it with foam to diffuse any fumes. The boat, which he said is still in one piece, was towed to nearby Sunset Aquatic Park. The cause of the fire is under investigation, officials said.

“As of right now, we don’t have any reason to believe that there was anything other than just being a boat accident,” Breckner said.

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