September 19, 2019

Burned man rescued family after boat exploded

BROOKSVILLE – Moments after an explosion blasted him off his boat, a Cape Rosier man ignored burns on his hands and arms and managed to drag a nearby rowboat through Orcutt Harbor to rescue his daughter and her two children, the town fire chief said Monday.

A spark had ignited gasoline fumes aboard Edward Black’s 34-foot boat, the Kingfisher, on Sunday afternoon, causing the explosion just a few hundred yards from shore near Condon Point in South Brooksville.

Black was in a Portland hospital on Monday for treatment of the second- and third-degree burns that cover more than 35 percent of his body, Brooksville Fire Chief Bill Leck said.

Leck said Black suffered burns to his hands and arms, yet after landing in the water, he managed to drag the rowboat to where his daughter and two granddaughters had jumped from the burning boat.

“He was just running on adrenaline,” Leck said.

Black’s wife, Ann Black, was knocked unconscious by a piece of wreckage that had been thrown up by the explosion. She fell into the water and stopped breathing until the couple’s daughter, Toni Staples, dragged her mother into the rowboat, made her way to shore, and revived Ann Black with CPR, Leck said.

“It was at the point where it was almost a death – Toni did an amazing job,” he said.

When crews from Peninsula Ambulance Corps arrived, Staples and her two daughters, Chelsea and Megan – both of whom are under 10 years old – were treated for hypothermia at the scene, Leck said.

Although injured, all five family members and one of the dogs that had been riding in the boat with them made it to shore. A second dog on board died.

According to Leck, Black is in his 40s, substantially younger than reported immediately following the incident Sunday.

A local man heard the explosion from his boat and called authorities at four minutes after 3 p.m. A member of the Brooksville Fire Department also witnessed the accident.

“He heard the pop, saw this cloud of smoke and headed for the station,” Leck said.

About 16 members of the Brooksville Fire Department responded to the call before Marine Patrol officers arrived. One crew took a portable pump and headed to the scene from nearby Buck Harbor. Others approached from land, driving a fire truck down Condon Point.

When fire crews arrived, the burning boat had drifted to shore and gotten caught on a dock. They fought the fire from the water and with a hose run down the dock from shore for about 15 minutes, Leck said.

Had the boat not secured itself some distance from shore, controlling the fire would have been much more difficult.

“It could have floated all over the place,” Leck said. “We were just dousing it to keep sparks from spreading to the trees.”

Despite dry conditions, the mixed forest surrounding a small beach at the tip of Condon Point did not catch fire.

After the fire was controlled, a nearby lobsterman and a firefighter towed it to shore, then fire crews used a truck to pull the vessel onto the beach and secure it before extinguishing a few small fires that continued to burn.

Firefighters called for a LifeFlight helicopter, but the crew was busy at an emergency elsewhere in Maine.

Four ambulances rushed to the scene, but several were diverted to Sedgwick when reports of a nearby plane crash came in at 3:30 p.m.

“It’s just one of these things where everything happened at once,” Leck said.

Both Blacks were taken by ambulance to Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, where Ann was treated and released Monday morning. Edward was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, then on to the special burn unit at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

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