FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A spectacular explosion and fire at a Long Island marina left two men badly burned and more than a dozen boats charred and gutted Wednesday.
Investigators said the fire started when two workers routinely repairing an engine on a boat caused a spark that ignited some leftover gasoline and caused an explosion at the Approved Marine boat yard at around 3:30 p.m.
According to detectives, the workers believed a fuel tank from a boat that was in storage was completely empty and attempted to cut it out from its position using a power saw. The sparks that were created caused residual fuel and fumes to ignite and burst into flames.
The men were rushed to Nassau University Medical Center and are listed in critical but stable condition.
Thick, black smoke could be seen for miles and the damage is estimated at more than $1 million.
“This is gonna devastate a lot of people, a lot of boats were destroyed,” Chief Mark Stuperich said.
Sixteen luxury boats were destroyed in the fire, which spread from one boat to another. It was a close call for Ruth Scalere and her boat.
“I was worried. I heard it on the news, jumped in the car, but we’re right there. My boat is within sight,” she told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.
“That’s the most part that we care about, everything else is just fiberglass, it’s immaterial. So our biggest concerns right now are with the two gentlemen,” said Approved Marine spokesman Chris Squeri said.
Fighting the fire was made more difficult by the location of the boats, tightly packed in the marina. Firefighters had a tough time dousing hots spots all night long.
“When they’re packed with each other like this, it’s really difficult to get to all of them,” Freeport Fire Department Chief Mark Stuperich told Dennis.
Fire investigators will turn the scene over to insurance adjusters Thursday morning. The boat yard is insured, and so are most of the boats on site. The spectacular fire, however, is heartbreaking for the small boating community.
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