The Associated Press reported that at least eight people were killed in their boats yesterday when a fire at an Alabama marina destroyed 35 vessels.
Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus told the news service that all eight people known to be missing have been confirmed dead. He added that the “number could go up, because we don't know how many were on boats [that sank].”
The fire began after midnight at Jackson County Park Marina on the Tennessee River in Scottsboro, Ala. At least 35 vessels burned and an aluminum roof that covered many boats melted and collapsed, cutting off escape routes and forcing boaters to jump into the river.
The fire was spread so rapidly by the wind that “we didn’t have time to do nothing,” Tommy Jones told the AP. Jones survived, but lost his brother in the cold water. Jones also watched helplessly as a small boat containing a woman and her children was engulfed in flames. “There was nothing we could do,” he said.
“It was scary. The worst thing for me is that you could hear people screaming for help, and there was nothing we could do. Nobody could do anything to get to them,” Julie Jackson, who lives with her husband and son in a houseboat, told the news service.
Necklaus said some of the burning boats sank at the dock and that others floated away. Divers have been searching fort other victims.
“We woke up hearing screams and popping noises,” Mandy Durham, who was with her boyfriend in a nearby boat, told the Associated Press. “When we woke up, we could see red through the window.”
“Within 15 to 20 minutes, the whole dock was in flames,” she added. “All these boats have propane tanks and gas tanks, and that's a lot of fire.”
Durham said people were jumping aboard a boat at the end of the dock because fire had consumed the middle portion. Then the flames spread to that boat, leaving water as the only way out.
Officials have not released the names of any of those killed or missing.
“Everybody is just hoping to find the ones they knew on that dock. There were families there. It's devastating,” Durham said.