Two people were killed and three others were critically injured after a boat fire erupted in Long Beach on Saturday night.
The deceased victims were identified as two women in their 60s, according to the Long Beach Fire Department. The other three victims were two men and one woman, all in their 60s.
Crews responded to a boat fire in Alamitos Bay near the 200 block of Marina Drive around 5:17 p.m.
Five victims were found at the scene — two people were pronounced dead while three others had critical burn-related injuries.
All victims were airlifted to local hospitals for treatment.
The flames erupted on a “35-foot pleasure craft” that was in close proximity to a fuel dock near Fire Station 21, authorities said.
“I was enjoying the park and then I heard this massive explosion,” said witness Chris Berry. “You know it was a very powerful one because you could feel the vibration. Then I just saw billowing smoke. There were people floating in the water but they had debris that they were able to hold onto.”
Images from the scene show large plumes of smoke covering the pier as bystanders looked on. Both land and marine reinforcements responded to the scene the extinguish the blaze.
The charred vessel appeared to be completely damaged at the stern.
“I was working on the boat down below and the explosion happened,” recalled Pete Halboth, who was working on his boat nearby. “It was very loud. Everybody got out of their boats and got up on the flybridges and were trying to figure out what happened and then you started seeing the smoke.”
Investigators believe the victims may have been in the middle of fueling their boat or had just finished fueling when the flames ignited. There is a possibility that accumulated fumes were ignited, but that detail has not been confirmed.
The destroyed craft will be taken to an isolation dock to mitigate any potential fuel leakage into the waters. A hazmat team and officials from the L.A. County Coroner’s Office arrived at the scene.
It’s unclear what ignited the fire as the deadly incident remains under investigation. The victims’ identities have not been released.
“It’s very unfortunate for the families,” said Halboth. “My heart goes out to them. It’s a sad day for the boating community down here.”