Reggie Fecteau was fast asleep in his first floor apartment when he was startled out of sleep by a loud boom, followed by piercing screams.
“I thought someone had gotten hit by lightening,” said Fecteau, who manages Kira-Mar Waterfront Villas and Dock, at 77 Hendricks Isle Dr. in Fort Lauderdale.
He ran out only to find a 35-foot Cabin Cruiser, named Chico Malo, on fire. The boat’s owner, who he identified as Bart Lopresti, was burned in the explosion.
“I told him to go in and take a cold shower to help the skin from melting off,” Fecteau said.
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Lopresti and his wife Fabi and their four year-old son Chase were visiting from New Jersey and always stay on the boat, Fecteau said. Both Fabi and her son were able to get off the boat safely.
When firefighters arrived, the boat was “fully engulfed,” said Fort Lauderdale Fire Department Spokesman Matt Little.
The fire department received a call shortly after 7:30 a.m.
The flames had quickly spread to a nearby 35-foot sailboat, destroying that boat as well.
There was minor damage to a third boat, Little said.
Lopresti had smelled fumes just before the explosion, Little said.
The injured man was taken to Broward General Hospital and then airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Lopresti had second degree burns on 20 percent of his body, but was recovering.
“He is fully aware of what is going on,” said Fecteau.
In addition to rescue trucks, fire fighters also arrived on boat to attack the flames with water and foam.
Joanne Jackson, whose house is across the canal, said she was in bed with her windows open when she heard an explosion. About 125 feet separate her backyard in Navarro Isle from where the boat was moored.
“It shook my house,” said Jackson, who grabbed her phone and ran outside to see what was happening. “When the fire really got underway, I couldn’t even see across the canal, the fire was so dense.”
Miami Herald photojournalist Walter Michot contributed to this report.