6 rescued from burning boat off St. Augustine

By Ashley Mitchem, Morning traffic, news reporter, amitchem@wjxt.com
Crystal Moyer, Morning assignment desk, backup traffic reporter, cmoyer@wjxt.com
Published On: May 22 2014 06:58:49 AM EDT
Updated On: May 22 2014 08:01:57 PM EDT

VIDEO: 6 boaters are safe on solid ground after being rescued from their boat fire Thursday morning 35 miles from the St. Augustine coast.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -

Six people are rescued from a boat burning off the coast of St. Augustine early Thursday morning, according to the Mayport Coast Guard.

The boat, named Treehouse, was 35 miles off the coast when it caught fire. The Coast Guard was dispatched to that location for rescue.

"At that point we checked the safety hatch on the engine room and it was all in flames," said John Fields, a passenger on the boat. "So two went to the bow of the boat, we did have a life raft and we started activating the life raft and putting it in the water. All of this was in five or 10 minutes, and the boat was already in flames coming out of the side."

Fields said one of the scariest parts was four of the six, including himself, were sleeping and woke up to smoke so thick they couldn't see.

Burning boat "By the help of them yelling my name, I could hear the voice but couldn't see, and the floor had already burnt out and that's when I could see and I fell through," Fields said.

Before the Coast Guard arrived, Good Samaritans on a passing boat heard the mayday calls on their radio and stopped to rescue the six passengers, who were participating in the Bluewater Fishing Tournament. Those on the passing boat were also part of the tournament.

"These gentlemen picked us up within just 10 minutes or so on the raft, so start to finish 20-25 minutes," Fields said.

"I heard a distress call and had trouble hearing it and getting the latitude and longitude, and eventually I heard it from the Coast Guard and I turned around and said, 'Hell, that's the guy behind me,'" Harry Graves said.

When Graves turned around to help rescue them, he couldn't believe his eyes. The boat he passed was in flames.

"It was deadly serious," he said. "It was bad news, the scariest thing you can think of."

The passengers on the burning boat were taken to Camanchee Cove Marina. One of the men had an ankle injury.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

The boat eventually sank.

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