Refueling may have caused boat explosion
reinforcing need for boater education
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
BY REX HALL JR.
rhall@kalamazoogazette.com
(269) 388-7784

SOUTH HAVEN -- A boat that exploded Sunday
at the Black River Yacht Club and injured four
people from Kalamazoo was being refueled when
the blast occurred, according to authorities.
The boat explosion Sunday injured four people,
who were thrown into the Black River by the force
of the blast or jumped in to escape the flames.
Two men, a woman and a child were injured at
Black River Yacht Club, 290 Oak St., when the
1:55 pm explosion rocked the marina. Other
boaters helped pull the burned victims out of the
water.

Fire Chief Ronald Wise, of South Haven Area
Emergency Services, said investigators believe
the boat's owner, Jim Fish, and a passenger,
Keith Pepin, were using a 28-gallon gas
container with an electric pump to put gas in the
boat just before 2 pm when the vessel exploded.

Fish, Pepin and two other people on the boat
were taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in
Kalamazoo, where a hospital official said Fish
was listed in critical condition and Pepin was
listed in fair condition. Another passenger, Anita
Pryor, was listed in serious condition. Pryor's
son, Austin, was released from Bronson, the
hospital official said.

Wise said the gas container used to refuel the
boat did not comply with national and state fire
codes and that refueling the boat in a yacht
club's berthing area violates a fire code.
Wise said the practice of using portable gas containers and fueling in berthing areas,
however, has become more common as boaters try to save money on gasoline, which is
typically more expensive to buy in marinas than elsewhere. Besides the increased risk for
explosion, such refueling practices have the potential for creating gas spills in waterways.

Several near-by boats were destroyed or severely damaged by the fire.
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