Good Samaritans rescue 6 people from boat burning in Fort Lauderdale

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A group of good Samaritans came to the rescue of a group of people stranded in a boat burning off the coast of Fort Lauderdale.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, six people were on board the 45-foot charter boat when it caught fire early Monday morning. A family visiting South Florida on board a nearby vessel saw the blaze and rushed to help the boaters to safety.

The Barriger family from Connecticut were fishing on the Lady Pamela II when they noticed the fire. “We were just out fishing for charter, and we heard fire,” said good Samaritan Kate Barriger.

The boat that had caught fire was just a mile away from the Barrigers.

The fire began in the engine area of the boat before quickly spreading to the rest of it.

“I saw smoke coming out, and I saw guys scurrying around. I looked down at my mate, and I said, ‘I think that boat’s on fire,'” said Lady Pamela II Capt. Gene Checci. “When I picked up the outriggers to go get them, the boat was completely engulfed in fire, all the way up to the flybridge, and all the people were out on the bow, so I just went around it, came up alongside the boat.”

Cellphone video captured part of the rescue.

“It went from smoke to fire within three to four minutes,” Checci said. “I’m telling ya, it was ridiculous.”

One person almost went overboard while trying to get onto the Lady Pamela II.

“Well the way with everything, the wakes and the rocking of the boats, they hit each other and he slipped,” Barriger said. “He caught himself, thank God.”

All six people were rescued.

“They were happy, grateful, lots of thank yous from them, including the captain and the crew,” said Sean Matthews onboard Lady Pamela II. “We just had to help out and do our jobs. Not a bad day. We also caught fish.”

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue responded to the scene and tried to save the boat, but the vessel had already sunk 15 feet below. It’s a total loss.

“So our boat was sitting there fishing at the whistle buoy for some fresh live bait, and they looked over, and they saw the boat fully engulfed in flames,” said Charter Company owner David Ide. “They quickly reeled everything up and ran over there to make sure no one’s life was in jeopardy, and when they got over there, the entire cabin was fully engulfed in flames, and everybody was on the bow, so what they did was went bow to bow, and got all the passengers of the bow of the boat to make sure everybody was safe, and no one would get injured.”

Fort Lauderdale Beach was temporarily closed from Lifeguard Station 1 through 12 as a precaution. It’s now open.

Crews are now working with a commercial salvage company to figure out their next move.

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