GRAFTON, IL - Emergency crews were called to the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers Saturday evening where a boat exploded in front of Grafton businesses.
The boat exploded less than 100 feet from shore and within 20 feet of the fueling dock.
The fire chief credits the quick response from bystanders and from first responders for saving the lives of the couple who were on board.
“It was coming into the dock and as it was coming in at the dock it just exploded, says a witness Douglas Dobynes.
A pile of debris floating in the river is all that’s left after a leisure boat exploded Saturday evening.
Fire Chief Gerry New says a husband and wife Beverly and Dennis Day, who are from the Grafton area were on board and the blast was so strong that it blew them into the water.
He says they were both airlifted to a hospital with severe burns to their bodies.
“Primarily, our function at that point was to take care of the victims and then ‘B’ to take care of the fire itself. Conservation is here, They’re gonna take care of any type of issues now because there is gas and oil in the water,” explains New.
He says the driver was able to tell him he was having mechanical issues and he was trying to restart the boat when it exploded.
The chief says he will conduct an investigation once the debris is removed from the water.
For onlookers near the Grafton Oyster Bar, it was a horrific scene to witness, less than a week after 17 people died on Missouri waters when a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake.
“After what happened in a couple days ago down in Branson it was like terrifying for us. It was the worst, most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Dobynes.
“But we are very fortunate that other boaters and people assisted to remove them from the water, so we are very lucky and so were they,” says New.
The fire chief says now the next step is to get the debris out of the water so he can continue his investigation and so that it doesn’t become a hazard to other boaters. He says at the time when he arrived on scene neither the husband nor wife had life-jackets on.
The family has set-up a GoFundMe page to help with expenses