Speedboat bursts into flames

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A fire on the water of Lake Hawea was a lucky escape for a vacationing family.
Lake Hawea Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer Brent Arthur said a family of four was lucky to be alive after a dramatic explosion and fire in a speedboat.
‘‘It was a husband and wife with two kids, so they were pretty lucky.’’
The drama began when the family from Christchurch were out in their speedboat on Lake Hawea last week.
Mr Arthur, who spoke to the husband after the incident, said the speedboat’s engine had been causing problems.
‘‘He’d had a few issues with it up to now [that had been fixed], so it wasn’t a maintenance issue. He had actually just had it in to be serviced.’’
The family was in the speedboat for several hours when the husband noticed the engine seemed to be using fuel faster than normal.
‘‘He lifted the engine cover and saw one of the fuel lines had a slight weep in it.’’
Deciding not to take any risks they headed back to the ramp, ‘‘never thinking the worst-case scenario would happen’’.
While returning to the ramp there was a ‘‘loud explosion’’ inside the engine hatch.
The father was steering with the daughter at the front, and the wife and son were in the back of the boat.
‘‘But the back seat is hard up against the engine, and they felt an enormous pressure on their backs as it was actually trying to release.’’
Strong catches on the engine cover contained the explosion.
‘‘Luckily enough, those catches held, otherwise it might have been a different story.’’
The family bailed out of the boat, which drifted about 100m off the shore and a fierce fire began.
The fire brigade had access to two boats to put the fire out but because the speedboat was empty and there was no threat to life, they focused on working to minimise any environmental impact.
‘‘The call was made not to use the portable pump because if we pumped water into it, the odds are it would have put it straight to the bottom.’’
To prevent environmental damage such as releasing oil, fuel or other contaminants, they secured a line and slowly towed the boat to shore while it was still burning.
‘‘It was quite slow because any more speed it would have just swamped it and put it under.’’
By the time the boat was on shore the fire was beginning to subside as the most of the fuel had burnt itself out. They were able to put the fire out safely on the beach.
Mr Arthur said while it was relatively unusual to have a fire callout on the lake, the brigade was used to being adaptable and used dynamic risk assessment for the range of different incidents it attended.

Narrow escape . . . The results of a fire in a speedboat on Lake Hawea. PHOTO: SUPPLIED