Boating party escapes safely after boat explodes at gas dock

Updated: 1:55 p.m. | Posted: 12:06 p.m.

A boating party had a close call when the 34-foot cruiser they were on exploded at a gas dock in Inver Grove Heights.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports the Sunday afternoon blast at the River Heights Marina blew out the windows on the boat. Passengers were able to climb off the boat before the flames spread.

Inver Grove Heights Fire Chief Judy Thill said the boat had just been re-fueled.

"When they started it, there was some kind of boom and a small fire but unfortunately they weren't able to put out the fire and it continued to grow," Thill said.

Thill added investigators are still trying to piece together what happened. She said that while rare, incidents like this are a reminder that boats should have working fire extinguishers.

Marina owner Joe Harms praised the gas attendant for responding quickly, immediately hitting the emergency shut-off button for the pumps.

Once the passengers were safely on the dock, the attendant set the boat loose so it would float away from the gas pumps.

The burning boat then drifted to a small foot bridge. The bridge was damaged, but appears to be structurally sound, Thill said.