As an experienced boater for over 50 years as well as a Pennsylvania boating and maritime lawyer since 1979, I am always sad to read about easily preventable catastrophic accidents and boating fatalities that occur during the fueling of a power boat.
According to news sources, a woman was killed and six people including a child were injured when a power boat exploded and sank after refueling at an Erie Yacht Club over the weekend. Our hearts thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.
As an operator of power boats and as a lawyer who worked on boating docks as a young boy fueling boats, I am very well familiar that when boats are refueling it is important to have proper ventilation and utilize the blower system prior to starting the engine to clear out an accumulation of gas fumes which might be ignited by a spark and cause an explosion. It is essential for boating safety that fumes be totally cleared. According to news sources, the boat was 32-foot mid 1980's Wellcraft.
Unfortunately I have witnessed and investigated similar cases and typically most explosions in the boating industry occur during the fueling process. Last year there were close to 3,000 boat explosions while fueling in the United States and almost always, the consequences are deadly and catastrophic. Potential causes of boat explosions include but are not limited to improper ventilation, not using the blower long enough prior to starting the engine, improper fueling methods, gasoline spillage and overflow, lack of inspection of fuel systems, lack of flammable materials and construction, lack of fire suppression equipment, not grounding the fuel nozzle to the fuel pipe during fueling, and not making sure passengers are off the vessel during refueling. Many times a design defect or a flaw can cause or contribute to a marine fire or boat explosion. Boat electrical systems should be properly maintained to reduce electrical ignition. Sources and bonding ground systems should be used on all boats with fixed electrical systems and all exhaust motors and vents should be properly maintained and installed by boat manufacturers and owners. Almost all boat explosions are preventable. Simply stated, boats do not explode unless someone did something wrong.