Bilge blowers

Narrative

Dad, Mum and the two girls intended to go boating for a few days. Prior to setting out they took on fuel (petrol) at a marina. On completion of refuelling the owner went to pay for the fuel before retuning to his vessel.

The owner went to the flybridge and operated the bilge blowers for a period of time to remove any petrol fumes before inserting the ignition key and attempting to start the vessels engines.

Instantaneously he heard and felt a massive explosion towards the bow of the vessel and saw the windscreen of the vessel explode outwards followed by flames.

As a result of the explosion his wife and daughters were thrown from the vessel into the water. His wife suffered significant burn injuries to her lower legs while the two children suffered singed hair and minor burns. All three had been in the cockpit prior to the explosion. The vessel was totally destroyed and the marina wharf sustained considerable fire damage.

The investigation found that the vessel had been loaded with provisions in such a way that the boat to took on a ‘bow down’ attitude. The petrol fumes from refuelling were trapped in the forward bilge after refuelling due to the bow down attitude and were not completely expelled after ventilation blowers were activated.

The cause of the explosion and subsequent fire was due to this build-up of fumes which exploded after the ignition key was turned to start the engines.

Lessons learned

  1. Vessels are designed to be stable when they have an even keel trim and no list to either side. Weights in a vessel should be evenly distributed.
  2. Always be aware of the danger of petrol fumes on boats. Always ventilate, install blowers and gas detectors.
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