April 24, 2003 – Captain and crew abandoned the fishing boat Mona Queen about a mile southeast of Buck Island Wednesday afternoon when the 42-foot vessel caught fire.
The National Park Service's superintendent, Joel Tutein, said that fisherman Thomas Daley and one crew member were returning from the Long Bank fishing site when the boat burst into flames. He said 800 gallons of diesel fuel were aboard and caught fire.
Tutein said nearby boats reported the situation to authorities, and the U.S. Coast Guard and the Police Department's Blue Lightning Marine Unit were dispatched. Fire Service, Planning and Natural Resources Department and National Park Service personnel also went to the scene, he said.
Firefighters used foam to get the flames under control. "Water would sink the boat," Tutein noted. "Our first concerns were safety and environmental issues. We didn't want 800 gallons of diesel fuel at the bottom of the [Buck Island National] monument."
During the operation, DPNR personnel put a boom around the boat to prevent oil or gas spills, he said, but most of the fuel likely burned off early on.
After the flames were contained, an NPS vessel began towing the Mona Queen to Coakley Bay, Tutein said, but the fire re-ignited on the way "and fully engulfed the boat."
He said a fire engine met the boats at the bay and firefighters worked until about 9:30 p.m. to put out the flames.
Tutein lauded the multi-agency effort, saying: "Cooperation has always been outstanding among the departments whenever there's an emergency."
He did say, however, that radio communication need to be improved across the board. "DPNR couldn't talk to the fire department, and we couldn't talk to any of them," he said. "We have cell phones, but those are not always reliable."
He also said the island desperately needs a fireboat for situations such as this one. Had the seas been rough, he said, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to tow the vessel back to shore.
The Mona Queen was a total loss and DPNR is investigating the cause of the fire, Tutein said. There was no loss of life, he said, but Daley reportedly does not have insurance on the boat.
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