Three injured in Ocean Isle Beach boat explosion


Three people were injured when a boat exploded in Ocean Isle Beach on Friday afternoon.

EMS crews arrived on the scene shortly after 4 p.m. at the Ocean Isle Fishing Company on Causeway Drive.

NC Wildlife Resource Commission Master Officer Scott Pritchard said the victims were boat owner and operator David Richard Martin Jr., 40, of Charlotte; passenger Jonathan Leslie Bickett, 35, of Charlotte and Sea Tow employee Kendrick Stanley Schwarz, 24, of Brunswick County.

Martin and Bickett were airlifted to the Chapel Hill Burn Clinic. As of Saturday, Bickett is in good condition and Martin is in fair condition according to Tom Hughes at the Burn Clinic. Schwarz was taken to the Grand Strand Medical Center.

Pritchard said Martin and Bickett were fueling up the boat, but instead of putting fuel in the gas tank, 28 gallons of gas went into a fishing rod holder.

Jeff Williamson, who runs a fishing charter out of Ocean Isle Beach, said he warned Martin and Bickett before the explosion.

“I noticed a sheen of gas on the water and thought he might have misfueled,” Williamson said. “I advised him he better call a tow company to tow him back to the marina instead of cranking the boat because it might explode. The inevitable happened.”

Sea Tow’s Schwarz arrived and advised the pair to disconnect battery cables so a spark would not ignite the gas.

However, when they were disconnecting the cables, a spark ignited the gasoline, causing the explosion.

“I’ve seen a boat explode before with a fuel leak, so I was aware of what would happen if a spark got in that much fuel,” Williamson said.

The nearby restaurant and fishing center were evacuated. It took crews 10 to 15 minutes to put out the fire.

“I’ve been to Fort Fisher when they do the cannon firings,” Williamson said. “It was like a cannon exploded and then it was just a huge ball of fire with a lot of black smoke.”

Pritchard said a wildlife officer in the Chapel Hill area went to the hospital and that Martin and Bickett were able to talk to the officer.

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