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Fire Kills At Least Eight At Guntersville Marina Boat Dock

Mike Bolton | January 28, 2020

Law Enforcement officials are confirming that at least eight people are dead after a fire fueled by exploding boat gas tanks and propane tanks roared through a north Alabama marina early Monday morning.

Numerous boats sank, and rescue personnel are still looking for victims. Currently, no people have been reported as unaccounted for, but officials fear additional victims could be located as recovery and debris removal continues.

Jackson County Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen told the Jackson County Sentinel that some of the victims are minors.

“It’s always tough when people lose their life. It’s even worse when it’s young people, which we had in this case,” Harnen said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that lost loved ones today.”

Seven people were treated at local hospitals, primarily for hypothermia from being in the water, but they were not seriously injured, officials said.

Gene Necklaus, the Scottsboro Fire Chief, told reporters this morning that it could take days to confirm the identities of victims.

The fire began around 12:40 a.m. Monday morning, Jan. 27, 2020. The blaze quickly engulfed at least 35 boats moored at B-Dock in Jackson County Park and Marina. The boats ranged from 20 to 40 feet long and included houseboats, cabin cruisers and pontoons.

The marina is located in Scottsboro on the banks of Lake Guntersville.

Many people lived on the houseboats or cabin cruisers at the marina or used them for weekend getaways. The Jackson County Park and Marina offers both covered and uncovered marina slips for monthly and yearly rental. The marina also offers “transient slips” for nightly, weekly and monthly rentals.

Witnesses said the docks were consumed in fire in 15 to 20 minutes. They reported hearing screams and multiple explosions. One witness said that all the boats there have propane tanks and gas tanks and that fueled the fire.

Several witnesses said they were duck hunters and were using the boats in the marina as a place to stay overnight. One duck hunter said his crew was able to get their boat away from the burning dock, but it collided with a burning boat and their boat caught on fire. He said he was forced to jump into the frigid water and swim 60 yards before he was rescued by another boat.

The cause of the fire is unknown. The Scottsboro Fire Department, local police and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the cause. Approximately 20 local, state and regional agencies were still on the scene Tuesday morning.

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