Officials in Jackson County, Alabama, confirmed that at least eight people died in a marina fire that destroyed 35 boats and a dock in Jackson County Park during the early morning hours Monday.
Seven other people were treated for burn injuries and hypothermia as they fled the fire by jumping into the frigid waters of Guntersville Lake, about 45 miles east of Huntsville and 100 miles north of Birmingham.
Authorities say it is too early to tell what may have caused the deadly fire. The Bureau of Alcohol and the State Fire Marshall’s Office have joined the Scottsboro Fire Department, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and other local agencies to investigate the fire.
Efforts to determine the number of casualties and identify the remains were complicated by the severity of the fire. The blaze caused many of the boats to sink and others drifted off into the lake before they sank.
Most of the boats were houseboats 20 to 40 feet long and several served as primary residences.
Many witnesses who escaped the fire and others from a nearby dock sad they awoke to the sound of people screaming, and popping and crackling noises after midnight. Within minutes the entire dock and the boats moored to it were consumed by flames.
“When we woke up, we could see red through the window,” Mandy Durham told the Associated Press. She was with her boyfriend on a nearby boat. “Within 15 to 20 minutes, the whole dock was in flames. All these boats have propane tanks and gas tanks, and that’s a lot of fire,” she added.
Some of the witnesses noted that some of the boats contained families, many with young children.
Julie Jackson, who lives with her husband and son in a houseboat on a nearby dock that was not affected by the fire, told the AP that “the worst thing for [her] was you could hear people screaming for help, and there was nothing we could do. Nobody could do anything to get to them.”
At Beasley Allen, our lawyers provide decades of experience in maritime law and helping those whose lives have been impacted by boating and shipping accidents. We also handle cases involving premises liability, where people are injured or killed due to negligence on the part of property owners. For more information about either of these areas, contact us.