Charter captain pulls burning powerboat away from fuel dock in Southern Maryland

Saturday, 22 April 2017, 01:35:04 AM. ‘It could have been much worse,’ a Maryland Natural Resources Police official said, after boat catches fire in Calvert County.


A quick-thinking boat captain pulled a burning 21-foot powerboat away from the Solomons Yacht Club in Southern Maryland, and into deeper water, likely preventing a bigger problem, officials said.

A man was refueling his boat at the dock in Calvert County on Thursday evening. Once he finished, he tried to restart the engine but there was an explosion, according to Candy Thomson, a spokeswoman with the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

The boat owner was thrown back into the cabin, she said, and suffered second-degree burns on his legs. Another man — his father — was stepping onto the boat at the time and was either thrown in or fell into the water. He was not injured.

Out on the water — about half-a-mile away — Lee Tippett, a charter boat captain, was coming back with seven other people from rock fishing near the mouth of the Patuxent River.

Tippett recalled Friday how he spotted the boat on fire and went to help. He asked the seven people on board to stay in the cabin.

He then backed up his own boat, called the Fin Finder, to the burning one and threw an anchor on it. A crew member helped him.

Tippett then towed the flaming vessel out — away from the dock by almost two miles into deeper water. A fire department later put out the flames.

A video that was taken of the incident shows Tippett’s boat pulling the burning boat with red flames and black smoke coming from it, away from the pier.

Tippett said he saw the boat was on fire and somebody was in the water, along with people he knew on the dock trying to help.

“I just was doing what I could to help out,” said Tippett, 40, of Nanjemoy, Md., who has been in the charter fishing boat business for 12 years.

Thomson said her department plans to recognize Tippett for his efforts.

“He’s clearly very good at what he does,” Thomson said of Tippett’s rescue efforts. “He’s got a cool head, and our hat is off to him.”

She said the fuel tanks on the pier, plus people and other boats parked at the dock all made for a dangerous situation with the boat on fire.

“It could have been much worse,” she said.

The man who suffered the burns was taken to a hospital for treatment. Officials said the state’s fire marshal is investigating the cause of the explosion and fire.

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