Lake Freeman weekend boat fire explosion caused by fuel

Indiana Conservation Officer Seth Owens said the boat's gas filter wasn't functioning properly.

Posted: Jul 7, 2019 6:24 PM
Updated: Jul 8, 2019 3:20 PM

MONTICELLO, Ind. (WLFI) —  The Indiana Conservation Office has confirmed the boat fire on Lake Freeman was fuel-related.
Indiana Conservation Officer Seth Owens said the boat's gas filter wasn't functioning properly. When the owner filled the boat with gas and put it in the water it started a small fire that ignited the boat's explosion.

The Carroll County Sheriff's Office, White County Fire Department, Carroll County Fire Department, Carroll County EMS, and Indiana Conservation Office responded to the 911 call at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jul. 6. Owens said the boat burned for 15 to 20 minutes before the fire teams were able to get the fire out.

Owens confirmed a family of four from Lafayette was involved. A son, his mother, his wife, and their one-year-old daughter.

The son, his mother, and his daughter were in the boat and managed to escape before it went into flames. The Indiana Conservation Office is not releasing names at this time.

The family was examined by an EMS team and there were no injuries reported.

According to Owens, the owner purchased the boat several weeks ago and had taken it out six or seven times before this incident.

Eyewitnesses say it was a frightening scene. 

“It sounded like a large firework went off and we looked over and saw the black clouds and the flames,” said Jessica Key, an eyewitness.

Jessica Key is a staff member of The Dock at White Oaks restaurant, which is located on White Oaks Campground just feet away from where the family's boat caught fire during the lakes busiest weekend.

“All weekend long we heard the campers setting off fireworks so really at first we didn't think much of it until we looked up and saw all the smoke and then we got a little bit nervous and decided to kind of see what was going on over there,” said Keys.

White Oaks Campground Manager Lee Gast was the one to call 911. She said the boat owner had purchased a boating pass from her moments before the boat went up in flames.

“Charged him his $10 and he drove his boat and backed it up down into the ramp and I was working on my computer in my office and I just happened to hear an explosion,” said Gast.

After hearing loud booms and cracks from fireworks all weekend, Gast new right away that this particular sound was different.

"I knew it wasn't a firework when I was working on my computer," said Gast. "I knew good and well, in fact, I thought that someone had backed their boat down there and hit the side of the building because it was really and thud. Not only the thud but the boom."

Lake Freeman resident Don Kirby caught the incident on camera. He lived on the lake for a total of 15 years and said he's never seen a boating incident like this.

"This is the first one that I saw that was something that could be dangerous. We've had some other one but this is a safe lake. Most people here don't go crazy," said Kirby.

Kirby, like the other eyewitnesses, doesn't believe this incident will stop people from enjoying the lake.

"It's not going to stop us what so ever from wanting to enjoy the lake, being safe in the lake, enjoying the neighborhood it's a cool community," Kirby.

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