Boat catches fire under Kemah Bridge

Witnesses: Owner had potential buyer for boat on board when fire occurred

By Keith Garvin - Anchor/Reporter, Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Firefighters battled a boat that caught fire Friday afternoon under the Kemah Bridge.

The U.S. Coast Guard said a good Samaritan spotted a 50-foot yacht on fire under the bridge and called the Coast Guard, which diverted a helicopter and a ground crew. The Seabrook and Kemah fire departments also responded around 2 p.m. Friday.

Coast officials told Local 2 the boat was coming into the Blue Dolphin Yachting Center.

Five people on board the pleasure craft named Botox jumped to safety onto a wooden platform under the bridge. Two men who headed out on a small fishing boat saw the danger, called for help and then turned around for a successful rescue. There were no injuries.

Firefighters were able to get the fire under control and move the boat to one side of the waterway.

Once the fire was extinguished the boat was towed to a location across from the Kemah Boardwalk, where an environmental emergency crew worked to remove all the fuel to prevent any spills.

Cellphone video obtained by Local 2 captured the moments the 50-foot boat was engulfed in flames with thick black smoke pouring into the air.

Workers and patrons at a nearby restaurant noticed the smell and then the smoke when things went from bad to worse for the people on board.

"They were starting to freak out, they were. You could see," said Jayme King, who works at the Outriggers restaurant. "They were nervous, they were freaking out when they first saw the smoke."

"It turned into like dark, black clouds and then to flames after that," said bartender Maria Newkirk.

Witnesses told Local 2 that in addition to losing his boat, the owner had a potential buyer for the boat on board when the fire occurred. The owner told them the fire started in the boat's engines.

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