A pleasure boat burned to the water and sank near Ketchikan on Sunday morning, but five adults and five children were rescued safely.
U.S. Coast Guard radio operators at Station Ketchikan overheard a radio distress call from a person aboard the 34-foot Dry Heat at 8:46 a.m. reporting the fire near Streets Island, 10 miles west of Ketchikan.
The ferry Matanuska was passing near the vessel and hove to, to see if it could aid in the rescue, said Leon Curry, 70, a tourist from Florida who visits his son in Juneau every year.
"The captain announced there was a boat on fire and they were going to put a life boat over the side and give assistance," Curry said. Curry and his wife Karen were on their way from Juneau to Ketchikan at the time. "When we turned around, by the time I saw it, the whole boat was on fire. We heard there were four kids aboard. I saw it burn to the water. A couple of boats picked up the people, who had abandoned ship."
Curry estimated the Matanuska lingered in the area about half an hour, but was then on its way.
A Station Ketchikan rescue boat crew responded to the scene at 8:49 with firefighting equipment, but Good Samaritans aboard two vessels, the Show Girl from Salmon Falls Resort and the Sheltered Seas from Sportsman's Cove Lodge, arrived on scene first and took the nine uninjured boaters aboard.
The Good Samaritans took the families to Sportsman's Cove Lodge while the Coast Guard crew battled the blaze. The boat sank in 200 fathoms of water at 10:10 a.m.
The rescue included four adults and five children identified as Dugan Daniels, Diane Daniels of Ketchikan and their children, Dylon, 9, Dawson, 1, Daniels, Diane's daughter, Brooke Simmons, 5; her brother Roy Blair and sister-in-law Sandy, and her two nieces, Carly Blair, 4, and Allison Blair, 2. It was their first get-together all summer, said Diane Daniels, and they decided to go fishing.
"We believe the cause was electrical," said Daniels, owner with her husband of the Silverton boat. "It was in the engine compartment of the two inboards, and it caught the gas hoses on fire. A Fiberglas and wood boat won't ever be in our shopping list again, that's for sure." The boat was built in 1975, and the family had owned it about two years.
"We couldn't get all the life jackets because the cabin was engulfed (in flames). We could only get five, and we put them on the kids, except for me. We put my baby (Dawson) inside an ice chest; my husband held onto the handle. I don't know if the baby would have survived very long," Daniels said.
"My brother doesn't even swim, and was holding onto another cooler. But the boat from Sportsman's Cove Lodge was there in only 15 to 20 minutes, and another boat from Salmon Falls Resort rescued myself, two kids and my brother," she said.
"They took us to the lodge, where there were hot showers and blankets. They washed our clothes and gave us hot soup and hot chocolate. They were wonderful," Daniels said. "My husband was treated at the hospital and released for smoke inhalation (suffered while retrieving life jackets), but otherwise there were only bruises. It was a good story in the end."
The Dry Heat contained about 150 gallons of diesel fuel, and the Coast Guard crew reported seeing a small oil sheen about 50-by-50-yards in area.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.