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Accident at the Erie Yacht Club
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The Publisher

Jun 1, 2011, 7:02 AM

Post #1 of 3 (12487 views)
Accident at the Erie Yacht Club Log-In to Post/Reply

Story source:

A woman was killed and six people, including a child, were injured when a powerboat exploded and sank after refueling at the Erie Yacht Club on Monday evening (May 30, 2011).

Three of the injured people were flown to a Pittsburgh hospital to be treated for burns, the Yacht Club's general manager said.

He said five of the people were on the boat at the time, including the woman who was killed, and the two other people worked for the private Erie Yacht Club, at the foot of Ravine Drive off Virginia Avenue.

The names and ages of the victims were not available. The Yacht Club declined to release the names, pending notification of relatives.

Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook was still on the scene late Monday night and was not immediately available for comment. Authorities spent much of the night trying to recover the woman's body.

Firefighters were dispatched to the Yacht Club at 6:33 p.m.

Investigators on the scene, including those with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, were looking into whether the explosion was related to gas fumes accumulating on the boat, a 32-foot Wellcraft built in the mid-1980s.

The fumes might not have been blown off, as is supposed to happen before the engine on a refueled boat is restarted, said Michael Lynch, the Yacht Club's general manager.

Before the explosion, the boat had refueled at the fuel dock at the end of the Yacht Club's eastern pier, Lynch said at a news conference in front of the Yacht Club's clubhouse at 9:30 p.m.

He said the explosion occurred as the boat started up after the refueling.

After refueling, and before restarting the engine, "you are supposed to put the blower on to take the fumes out of the boat," Lynch said. "That is the typical operating procedure for a powerboat -- you put the blower on after you refuel."

He said he was uncertain whether the fumes and the blower caused the explosion, but that investigators were exploring that possibility. Agencies involved were expected to be the Erie Bureau of Police, the Fish and Boat Commission and the Coast Guard, police said.

The woman who was killed was not a member of the Yacht Club, Lynch said.

He said she was friends with the owners of the boat, who he said are Yacht Club members and were aboard the boat when it exploded.

The explosion shook the 1,200-member Yacht Club at the end of the busy Memorial Day weekend, which opens the summer sailing season. The club was celebrating its 117th opening day and held a ceremony that morning.

Crowds of boaters witnessed the explosion from their boats, their slips or from the clubhouse, where some were celebrating.

"It was like a bomb going off," said club member Sally Kohler, who was in the dining room. "You could see a rush of smoke coming from the place. It was like a bomb exploding."

She said the noise sounded like that of a cannon going off on the U.S. Brig Niagara.

Another woman said she heard the explosion at West Fourth Street and Lincoln Avenue, about four blocks south of the foot of Lincoln Avenue, which overlooks the Yacht Club.

Another woman said she heard the blast at West Seventh Street and Vermont Avenue, more than seven blocks away.

The Yacht Club placed buoys and absorbent pads in the water to contain gasoline that spread after the explosion, Lynch said. A dark orange-brown liquid could be seen floating on top of the water shortly after the blast.

Ambulances, police cars and firetrucks streamed into the Yacht Club after the explosion. Erie Fire Chief Tony Pol was on the scene, and the Erie County Sheriff's Office scuba team also assisted.

The Yacht Club moved a boat hoist over to the spot where the explosion occurred, apparently to pull the damaged boat out of the water. It had not been raised by nightfall.

The Publisher

Jun 1, 2011, 7:04 AM

Post #2 of 3 (12483 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Accident at the Erie Yacht Club [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Dear Yacht Club Family,

The Erie Yacht Club Sailing Fleet has suspended the Wednesday, June 1st race due to the recent boating accident. A group of members have arranged a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of the accident. The vigil will take place at 6:45PM tomorrow Wednesday June 1st at the Club lighthouse.

Please join us if you can.

Michael C. Lynch
General Manager

Erie Yacht Club

est. 1895

Dear Yacht Club Family,

For those of you that were not on the Club property on Monday evening, a tragic accident took place at our fuel dock. After taking on fuel, a member attempted to start the boat at which point an explosion took place. Five people were on-board including a toddler as well as two Club employees on the dock. Four people were burned, three badly and one fatality.

At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families of this horrific accident. Not enough can be said of the great response from the countless members and employees who extinguished the flames and rescued the victims. There were countless acts of selflessness by members and employees of the yacht club family to help their fellow member.

To quote a member of the Club who was on the seen, “They carried on the tradition of help and service to their fellow man. With 28 years of police / public safety experience, I was quite impressed the response of the EYC employees and members that I observed. They carried on the tradition of help and service to their fellow man. We have a great community of caring and responsive people at the Erie Yacht Club, of which I’m proud to be a member of.”

While there is only minor visible damage to the Club’s Fuel Dock building, the decision was made to suspend fuel sales until the Club has had all the pumps, pipes and tanks pressure tested. We want to make sure that no internal damage took place to the fueling station.

This accident will long live in the minds of those that risked injury to help, our thoughts and thanks go out to all of you.

Michael C. Lynch
General Manager

The Publisher

Jun 1, 2011, 7:06 AM

Post #3 of 3 (12482 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Accident at the Erie Yacht Club [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

May 31, 2011

Investigator: Boat had mechanical problems before fatal Erie Yacht Club explosion
Story source:

A 32-foot Wellcraft was experiencing mechanical problems leading up to an explosion Monday night that killed an Erie woman and injured five others, Erie's chief fire inspector said.

Erie Chief Fire Inspector Guy Santone said his investigation into the accident at the Erie Yacht Club showed that the operators of the boat, named Jimmy Time, were having difficulty filling one of the boat's two fuel tanks, and that an old gasket that "gave way" and allowed fuel vapors to enter the engine compartment instead of being blown out.

The boat exploded when it backfired while the operator tried to get it started, Santone said.

Killed in the blast was Erin Carlisle, 25, of Erie, according to Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook.

Four other people on the boat were injured. They were identified as the boat's owner, 32-year-old Aaron Hertel; Michael Brown, 34, Hertel's partner in Hertel & Brown Physical and Aquatic Therapy in Erie; Ryan Carlisle, 25, a physical therapist for Hertel & Brown and the husband of Erin Carlisle; and Hertel's 2-year-old son.

Also injured was the attendant at the Erie Yacht Club's fueling station, identified by Santone as Rachael Palkovic, no age available.

All five of the injured were taken to Pittsburgh hospitals for treatment. Santone said he had no information on their conditions.

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