People who aren’t regular boaters might not realize that one of the most dangerous times to be on (or near) a boat can be when it’s being refueled. Sadly, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), that was the case when a boat exploded at a marina this month in Lake of the Ozarks.
Sixteen people suffered injuries, including a 6-year-old girl. Five of the injured were hospitalized. Most of those injured were on the boat at the time of the explosion. Some were thrown overboard by the force of the blast. According to the MSHP, the operator of the boat started it up while it was still refueling. This caused “an explosion in the engine compartment.”
Why refueling can cause explosions
This isn’t the first time one of these explosions has occurred on a boat in the popular vacation destination. They occur every year throughout Missouri and the rest of the country.
The owner of one marina says one problem is that blower vents are often within a few feet of where people are refueling their boats. He explains, “If we’re gassing up right here we’ve got gas fumes in at least a four, five-foot cloud here being sucked right back into your bilge.” A single spark can cause an explosion.
Boat operators can take steps to avoid these explosions
Boat experts say that a good way for boat owners to minimize the chances of a refueling-related explosion is to make sure their hoses are all checked at least once a year – such as when they’re having their boat “de-winterized” before taking it out for the first time in the spring or summer.
These experts as well as the MSHP recommend that boat operators turn off their blowers to clear the gas vapors and refrain from starting their engine for a minimum of four minutes after they’ve finished refueling to avoid these conditions that could start a fire. Further, boat operators should have everyone get off the boat before refueling and not smoke or use cellphones nearby.
Those who suffer injuries because a boat operator neglected to take appropriate steps to avoid an explosion have the right to seek compensation for medical expenses and other costs and damages. Getting legal guidance is a good first step to doing this.