Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Boat in Tampa Bay catches fire near Apollo Beach, injuring passengers

It was shaping up to be a relaxing Saturday aboard the 33-foot Sea Ray anchored at Beer Can Island, a popular weekend destination for recreational boaters south of Tampa.

Six children were watching movies below deck. Five adults were in the back of the boat, and three others waded about 30 feet away.

Then, just before 12:30 p.m., an explosion aboard the anchored craft shattered the midday calm. It caught fire, and seven of the 14 passengers were critically injured, said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Three of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries.

Amy Leventry and her family were boarding their 26-foot cabin cruiser when they heard a loud boom. At first she thought the sound came from training exercises at MacDill Air Force Base.

"Then we heard the Mayday call," she said.

Her boat, along with 100 others, responded and saw black smoke billowing from the craft as dozens of people crowded around the injured on shore.

Six adults and one child were taken by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital, Morse said. Five children were treated for smoke inhalation and released from Tampa General, and one adult was taken to Brandon Regional Hospital but not critically injured, said Craig Lynn, shift commander for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

Their injuries likely included burns and broken bones, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson.

Morse did not have names of the people aboard. However, he said the 1995 Sea Ray cabin cruiser is registered to George Meyer, who was on board at the time of the explosion.

Morse said the 14 people were an extended family that departed at 10:30 a.m. from Apollo Beach.

Boats with onboard gasoline engines, like the Sea Ray, store vapors in the bilge and an electrical spark could cause a fire or explosion, Morse said. But only the generator was on when the boat caught fire.

"We do not know if that is the case in this explosion," he added.

Dianna Wisecarver, who was aboard Leventry's watercraft, said she watched the flames consume the boat until it was almost underwater.

"The survivors were taken off the boat relatively quickly, and there was a paramedic already on the island treating people when we got there," she said.

A security boat from MacDill was among the first responders, followed by an Eckerd College boat, Lynn said.

Three adults and several children were brought to shore at Williams Park in Riverview. The children were carried from boats to waiting ambulances.

The Associated Press and Times staff writer Kainaz Amaria contributed to this report. Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or

Boat in Tampa Bay catches fire near Apollo Beach, injuring passengers 05/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 2:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Delta Sigma Theta honors outgoing national president

    Human Interest

    During her four years as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Paulette Walker said she always focused on the comma between "Sorority" and "Inc."

    Paulette Walker, the former director of undergraduate programs and internship in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, will be honored on Saturday for her leadership in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
  2. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  3. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  4. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  5. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush


    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.