SENECA, Illinois – Fourteen people were injured when a boat caught fire at a marina in Seneca, Illinois Saturday, authorities said.
Witnesses described hearing an explosion around 4.30pm at the Spring Brook Marina before seeing raging flames and thick smoke billowing from the boat.
Illinois State Police said there were 17 people on board – when a beautiful day on the water took a terrifying turn.
“We were at the pool, the kids were swimming,” said Stephanie Manzello.
Manzello, who is camping in the area, said she was startled by the sound of an explosion.
“We just heard a loud boom. And we looked around. It’s Memorial Day weekend, we thought maybe it was just fireworks,” said Manzello. “About 30 seconds later, that’s when we saw the gray smoke turn into black smoke.”
Local and state agencies responded to help, including the Seneca Police Department, Seneca Fire Department, Grundy County Sheriff’s Office and Illinois State Police.
“It wasn’t until a few minutes later that we started hearing sirens,” Manzello said.
Thirteen of the 17 passengers on the boat were injured. One was airlifted to a local hospital with serious injuries, while 12 others were taken to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
A marina worker also suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to hospital, bringing the total number of people injured to 14, according to ISP.
“We saw a helicopter, and we thought maybe that was the news. We saw the medevac off to the side, and we were hoping it wasn’t going to land and it did, so we were afraid that someone had been injured,” Manzello said.
Nearby witnesses said that at the time of the explosion the boat – which the US Coast Guard described as a 30ft vessel – was at the marina’s fuel dock.
It is still unclear what caused the explosion and started the fire.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police is conducting this investigation.
Seneca is a small town located about an hour southwest of Chicago in LaSalle and Grundy counties.
DOWNLOAD THE FOX 32 CHICAGO APP FOR NEWS ALERTS