Small Boat Fire in Hall County, Georgia

by | May 7, 2024 | Maritime Law, Personal Injury

There was a recreational boating accident in Hall County, Georgia on May 5, 2024.  The incident occurred in Lake Lanier’s Balus Creek.  Four people jumped off the boat after it caught fire and swam to shore.  At least one person sustained burn injuries.  Early reports indicate one of the boaters was trying to crane the boat’s engine after it stalled when the fire broke out.  The fire remains under investigation.

Fires on small boats can arise from various sources, but when they occur during attempts to crank a stalled motor, several specific causes are likely to blame. The most common cause in such scenarios is a fuel system malfunction. Older engines or poorly maintained systems can leak fuel, and during the process of trying to start the engine, fuel vapors can accumulate in the bilge or engine compartment. These vapors are highly combustible and need only a spark—which can come from faulty wiring, a spark from the motor itself, or even static electricity—to ignite and cause a fire.

Electrical issues are another primary source of fires on small boats, particularly during the start-up of an engine. Boats often have complex electrical systems that are exposed to harsh marine environments which can lead to corrosion and degradation of wiring and connections. If the motor stalls and the boater repeatedly tries to start the engine, this can overtax the electrical system. Frayed wires or overloaded circuits can heat up and ignite, especially if they are in close proximity to flammable materials like fuel or oil.

Maintenance oversights also significantly increase the risk of fires aboard boats. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure all systems are functioning correctly and safely. For instance, if bilge pumps are not working properly, fuel or oil leaks may not be effectively removed, increasing the risk of these fluids igniting during engine startup. Similarly, failure to regularly inspect and replace fuel lines, clean the engine compartment, and ensure that all connections and hoses are secure can lead to conditions ripe for a fire when starting a stalled motor.

Lastly, the actions of the boater during the crisis can exacerbate the situation. Panic or improper handling of a fire, such as attempting to start the engine multiple times without checking for the smell of gasoline or the presence of leaks, can make a small problem much worse. Knowing how to properly respond to a fire, including the use of fire extinguishers, cutting off fuel supply, and electrical power, and having a clear evacuation plan, can be life-saving. Therefore, education on fire safety and regular drills are as important as mechanical and electrical maintenance in preventing and managing boat fires.

There have been a number of recent incidents involving vessels.  A crew member went overboard from the Holland America Line cruise ship ROTTERDAM on April 12, 2024.  A small boat capsized off the coast of San Francisco, California on April 14, 2024.  Two boats collided in Biscayne Bay in Florida on April 21, 2024.  A small boat capsized on Lake Houston in Texas on April 30, 2024.

Our experienced lawyers handle maritime personal injury and wrongful death litigation of all kinds and the skills needed to represent the families of loved ones who have lost their lives or those who have been seriously injured as a result of a maritime accident. The lawyers of Spagnoletti Law Firm have handled maritime lawsuits throughout the country.

The experienced and aggressive vessel accident attorneys at Spagnoletti Law Firm can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one was a victim of an accident on a ship. There are strict and short time limits on making claims related to maritime injuries, so please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or to learn more about your rights.