Latest News

National News

Eight killed in Alabama marina fire

A massive fire that killed at least eight people and destroyed dozens of boats in an Alabama marina spread so rapidly by the wind that "we didn't have time to do nothing," said one resident who survived but lost his brother in the cold water.

Tommy Jones, a Jackson County Park Marina resident, said he also watched helplessly as a small boat containing a woman and her children was engulfed in flames.

"There was nothing we could do," he said.

Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus said all eight people who were known to be missing have been confirmed dead, and "that number could go up, because we don't know how many were on boats" that sank.

The fire began just after midnight and quickly consumed the dock as people slept. The wooden dock and at least 35 vessels went up in flames and an aluminum roof that covered many of the boats melted and collapsed, cutting off escape routes and raining debris over the area as boaters leaped into the river.

Jones said he was aboard his 35-foot cabin cruiser when someone came banging on the boat after midnight saying, "Man, the marina is on fire." The flames were racing out to the far end of the dock where Jones' boat was tied.

Jones said he and several other men cut some boats free and sent them drifting out into the water. When a man placed his wife and children into a small boat, they cut that boat free too. Finally, Jones said, he jumped into the water and swam for shore, 200 yards away. He believes his brother Yancey Roper, who lived aboard another boat, swam in a different direction. Officials later told him that his brother had drowned.

Necklaus said some of the burning boats sank at the dock and others floated away before going under. He said divers need to locate each one and search them individually before they can be sure there were no other victims.

"We woke up hearing screams and popping noises," Mandy Durham, who was with her boyfriend in a nearby boat, told The Associated Press. "When we woke up, we could see red through the window."

"Within 15 to 20 minutes, the whole dock was in flames," she added. "All these boats have propane tanks and gas tanks, and that's a lot of fire."

The blaze destroyed the B dock, about 46 metres from the A dock where the boat of Durham's boyfriend was moored.

"There were numerous people rescued from the water who had escaped by going into the water," Jackson County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Rocky Harnen told the AP shortly after dawn. "We're trying to get divers down here to search for possible victims."

© AP 2020