Valdez boat explosion burns two people

Valdez boat hire

The Falcon burns in the Valdez Small Boat Harbor on Monday. Photo courtesy of Tony Gorman/KCHU

The Valdez Fire Department is investigating the cause of a Monday morning explosion that left a Fairbanks father and daughter with severe burns.

Owen Guthrie and his family were preparing to go out on the Prince William Sound when they stopped at the Crowley Fuel Dock at the Valdez Small Boat Harbor to fill up their bayliner, the Falcon. When Guthrie turned the ignition, the 28-foot vessel exploded.

His wife and two of his three daughters were able to escape through a window that blew out during the explosion.

Guthrie went back to retrieve the third daughter after she fell into the boat’s engine compartment. He and the teenage girl sustained severe burns. The mother and the other girls suffered cuts while escaping.

A medic from the Silver Bay Seafoods Cannery assisted the family until Valdez Fire crews and paramedics arrived on scene. Several workers from cannery weren’t far behind.

I was like right in the corner right where the boat was. I just saw people running into the factory and then telling us to get out. That’s pretty much all that was said. Then everyone started running out.”

I don’t know how it happened. A lady caught on fire and a man pulled her out of the boat. That’s all I heard, though.”

Crews arrived on scene to find the vessel engulfed in flames. Valdez Fire Chief George Keeney says the fire burned through the boat’s rope causing the vessel to go adrift. He said the blaze had also spread to the dock by the time crews had arrived on scene.

The harbor crew was quick. They pushed the skiff back into the docks so that we could tie on to it. We went ahead and had crews at both locations working putting the fires out. We had fire crews coming over here to the dock trying to get out quickly. At the same time, we’re knocking down the one in the boat.”

The Coast Guard reopened the harbor to traffic 45 minutes later. Keeney says the crews boomed off the area and still had to fight off hotspots on the boat.

The fuel dock will to remain close for the next three to four days while officials investigate the cause of the fire.

As for Guthrie and his daughter, they were medavaced to the Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage and later to the Harborview Burn Center in Seattle for further treatment.

The family’s dog, Sweetie, was also onboard the boat. The Valdez Fire Department says Sweetie is safe.