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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, July 4, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesBOAT BURNS IN CRUZ BAY HARBOR

BOAT BURNS IN CRUZ BAY HARBOR

Tourists, local residents, fire and police personnel watched helplessly as a 40-foot charter yacht burned to rubble Saturday night in Cruz Bay harbor. No one was on board at the time.
Diners at Wharfside Village were the first to spot the smoking boat about 8 p.m., and alerted 911. Pockets of people gathered and gawked, and a police cruiser and fire truck came to the scene, but little could be done to stop the roaring flames that quickly engulfed the boat.
After 45 minutes, crowds lined the dock and the beach. Many repeatedly asked why some action couldn't be taken to extinguish the flame, which seemed to threaten other boats in the harbor and the marine environment.
Police officials at the scene could not answer questions regarding local resources to deal with boat fires or who owned the boat. However, on Sunday morning Sgt. Ashmore Hyndman, acting deputy fire marshal on St. John, said the vessel was Wanderer, which was part of the Fan Fare Charters Inc. bare boat fleet.
Owner Jack Keniley confirmed Sunday afternoon it was his vessel that had caught on fire and sunk.
He said he had been informed of trouble with the vessel Saturday afternoon by the charterer, but when he went to look for the vessel he was unable to find it.
"Our boats are not allowed to go into Cruz Bay," Keniley said. "It's too crowded and there aren't any moorings. It's too bad I couldn't find the boat."
According to Keniley, the boat had been out for two days, chartered by an off-island charterer.
"We've never had a problem with the boat," he said. "It had new batteries and almost all new wiring."
Hyndman said the department does not have a vessel of its own to handle fires on the water.
"When we have a fire on the water, if we could get assistance from the park or the ferry boats we could do something. We have floating pumps," but without a boat there is no way to get to the burning vessels.
Hyndman said an investigation would be conducted Monday to determine the cause of the fire.
Leroy Frett, a retired Fire Services official who worked with the department for mroe than 20 years, was one of many onlookers Saturday night. He said the Virgin Islands needs a fire boat and cited several boat fires during his career that could have been reduced or eliminated with a fire boat and extinguishing equipment. He recalled that about 18 years ago there had been one fire boat, but it was put out of commission. "The government is the problem," Frett said, as he watched, speculating about the hazardous effect of burning fiberglass.
One fire official who asked not to be identified said he and a couple of others borrowed a dinghy and took a couple of extinguishers out to the boat, but it proved to be a lost cause. "The fire was blue, like from a strong chemical," he said, adding that a professionally equipped fire boat is sorely needed.
"We can't do much right now because the government is worried about insurance liability and that we could be blamed for damage to other boats, if we get out there and try to help," the official said.
One of the bystanders, Damar Merten-Farell, a seven-year resident of St. John, asked why the island had no pump boat and no means of extinguishing a fire in the harbor. "This is crazy," she said.
Editor's note: Hyndman earlier reported the name of the vessel to be Cam'rita, but later said it was Wanderer. Shaun A. Pennington contributed to this story.

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Tourists, local residents, fire and police personnel watched helplessly as a 40-foot charter yacht burned to rubble Saturday night in Cruz Bay harbor. No one was on board at the time.
Diners at Wharfside Village were the first to spot the smoking boat about 8 p.m., and alerted 911. Pockets of people gathered and gawked, and a police cruiser and fire truck came to the scene, but little could be done to stop the roaring flames that quickly engulfed the boat.
After 45 minutes, crowds lined the dock and the beach. Many repeatedly asked why some action couldn't be taken to extinguish the flame, which seemed to threaten other boats in the harbor and the marine environment.
Police officials at the scene could not answer questions regarding local resources to deal with boat fires or who owned the boat. However, on Sunday morning Sgt. Ashmore Hyndman, acting deputy fire marshal on St. John, said the vessel was Wanderer, which was part of the Fan Fare Charters Inc. bare boat fleet.
Owner Jack Keniley confirmed Sunday afternoon it was his vessel that had caught on fire and sunk.
He said he had been informed of trouble with the vessel Saturday afternoon by the charterer, but when he went to look for the vessel he was unable to find it.
"Our boats are not allowed to go into Cruz Bay," Keniley said. "It's too crowded and there aren't any moorings. It's too bad I couldn't find the boat."
According to Keniley, the boat had been out for two days, chartered by an off-island charterer.
"We've never had a problem with the boat," he said. "It had new batteries and almost all new wiring."
Hyndman said the department does not have a vessel of its own to handle fires on the water.
"When we have a fire on the water, if we could get assistance from the park or the ferry boats we could do something. We have floating pumps," but without a boat there is no way to get to the burning vessels.
Hyndman said an investigation would be conducted Monday to determine the cause of the fire.
Leroy Frett, a retired Fire Services official who worked with the department for mroe than 20 years, was one of many onlookers Saturday night. He said the Virgin Islands needs a fire boat and cited several boat fires during his career that could have been reduced or eliminated with a fire boat and extinguishing equipment. He recalled that about 18 years ago there had been one fire boat, but it was put out of commission. "The government is the problem," Frett said, as he watched, speculating about the hazardous effect of burning fiberglass.
One fire official who asked not to be identified said he and a couple of others borrowed a dinghy and took a couple of extinguishers out to the boat, but it proved to be a lost cause. "The fire was blue, like from a strong chemical," he said, adding that a professionally equipped fire boat is sorely needed.
"We can't do much right now because the government is worried about insurance liability and that we could be blamed for damage to other boats, if we get out there and try to help," the official said.
One of the bystanders, Damar Merten-Farell, a seven-year resident of St. John, asked why the island had no pump boat and no means of extinguishing a fire in the harbor. "This is crazy," she said.
Editor's note: Hyndman earlier reported the name of the vessel to be Cam'rita, but later said it was Wanderer. Shaun A. Pennington contributed to this story.