Family of three’s lucky escape after boat engine explodes, flames engulf vessel

A smouldered chilly bin of fish was all that remained after a boat was engulfed in flames and sank in the Manukau Harbour today, sparking a dramatic rescue.

A family of three were about 300m offshore from Āwhitu when the engine on their 4.5m boat exploded, with the engine cowling flying off and hitting a man in the head.

The man put the anchor down and the trio moved to the bow of the vessel to get away from the flames.

Meanwhile, a person back on shore who heard the explosion and saw black smoke coming from the boat called emergency services about 3.30pm.

The three people jumped overboard as flames took hold of their vessel. They were picked up by another boat nearby who took them ashore to the Matakawau Pt Boat Ramp, where they were assessed by paramedics for minor injuries.

Coastguard NZ Steel Rescue volunteer crew member Nigel Griffiths said the family of three were cold and wet but lucky to be alive.

“It could’ve been a very different outcome if things hadn’t gone their way.

“[The man] just kept reliving how quickly it went and how lucky they were that there was no one at the back of the boat when it happened. Just a stroke of luck that everyone was up the front.”

Coastguard crew went to the scene to check on the boat, but it had sunk by the time they got there.

“We did recover a smouldered chilly bin that still had fish in it.”

Explosions of this nature were quite rare in the Manukau Harbour as there weren’t many boats with the type of petrol engine this one had, he said.

Police, St John and the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter also responded to the incident.

This was the second boat fire the Coastguard attended in Auckland today.

The first job came in around 11.15am, when the engine of a 40ft cruiser yacht caught fire as it departed from Pine Harbour with two people on board.

Coastguard volunteers onboard Lion Foundation Rescue and North Shore Rescue responded.

Luckily, the vessel’s internal fire suppression system was activated, putting out the fire.

Crew from Lion Foundation Rescue then towed the vessel back to Pine Harbour to be assessed by Fire and Emergency NZ.

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