A family out for the maiden voyage of its new boat avoided injury but lost the craft Sunday afternoon when it went up in flames off the shore of McIvor Lake.
The small pleasure craft, outfitted with an inboard-outboard motor combination, burst into flames as the owner attempted to start it just after putting it in the water at the public boat launch around 12:45 p.m.
“He went to start it, and you see flames right away,” said Glenn Svensson, who was waiting in queue to put his own boat into the lake. “He slams down the hatch and jumps out, and the next thing, he’s standing in the water trying to push it out from shore.”
Svensson said the man was accompanied by his wife, who was in the truck that had just backed the boat trailer into the water, and two daughters.
“His daughters were screaming, ‘Daddy, get away from the boat!’” Svensson said.
More than a dozen spectators looked on from the shore or from other boats on the water as Svensson and other witnesses flagged down a departing car and yelled at the owner to call 911.
“They really need to put in a tower up there, because there’s no signal,” he said. “I told the first person I saw heading back to town to call.”
Campbell River firefighters responded and arrived to find the boat fully engulfed.
“We responded with a duty crew,” fire chief Ian Baikie said. “They were able to extinguish the fire, but it looked like a total loss. Fortunately, nobody was injured.”
The boat was towed away as fire crews inspected the area for any oil or other contaminants in the water.
“The crews didn’t see any obvious fuel slick,” said Baikie.
The incident halted activity at the boat launch for about 45 minutes, Svensson said. He had been waiting behind one other vehicle that was backing toward the water when the boat burst into flames.
“He went back up and I went back up (on shore),” said Svensson. “We didn’t want to get anything on our boats or trucks if it blew.”
During the wait for firefighters to arrive and complete their work, Svensson spoke to the boat’s owner, who was not identified.
“I found out he just paid $5,000 for that boat, used,” he said. “It was their first trip with it. The scary thing was, the thing was fully engulfed in flames and the guy was at the bow trying to push it out.
“We’re all yelling at him to get away from the boat; it can blow or not blow at any time, depending on the tank. It really went up fast.”