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Boat Fires - Who Is At Fault?

February 5, 2018 | Category: Boating Accidents | Share

On Sunday, January 14, 2018 a ferry boat, which was carrying passengers to a casino ship off the Florida Gulf Coast, caught fire. Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse of the U.S. Coast Guard said that investigators will determine a cause for Sunday night's fire and will examine the history of the boat and the company, Tropical Breeze Casino. One person died and dozens made it safely to land, reported the Tampa Bay Times. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. 

In November 2017, the Key West Express ferry crew rescued a family of three whose boat had capsized and caught fire. On its way to Key West from Fort Myers, the ferry crew received a distress call of a boat on fire. "You could see the flames and everything coming out. It looked like an engine fire," said a Cape Coral resident who was recording the incident while on board the Key West Express ferry. The cause has still not been reported. 

What causes boat fires? 

A survey conducted by US Boat, showed the following causes of boat fires: 

  • Faulty wiring/electrical failure - 55 percent 

More than half of fires investigated were found to have been caused by wiring and electrical problems. Vibration, hull flexing and moving components can quickly result in chafe, which can in turn result in wires being crossed, circuits shorting out and other dangers. 

  • Engine transmission overheat - 24 percent 

Any obstruction of the intake or exhaust cooling water passage can cause the engine to overheat and begin to melt down hoses and impellers. 

  • Fuel leak - 8 percent 

One of the most explosive and devastating types of fire, fuel leaks occur around fuel lines, at connections to the engine itself or from the fuel tank. That is why, Onboard Bluewater Yacht Sales says it is critical to run the bilge blower for four to five minutes before starting the engine. 

  • Miscellaneous – 13 percent 

Some boat fires take place because the owner of the boat has not been consistently maintaining the boat or checking the boat for problems or issues. Other electrical or mechanical problems could take place because the manufacturer of the boat or boat part sold a defective product. 

Who can be at fault in boat fire accidents? 

  1. The boat operator/owner could be at fault because of, among other things: 
  • Exceeding the equipment manufacturer’s recommended fuse rating, or maximum amperage rating of the supply wire, will result in failure of the fuse to protect the electrical equipment properly and could result in fire aboard the vessel, according to 
  • Electrical connections to bus bars, switches, circuit breakers and other electrical components should be checked for tightness and corrosion on an ongoing basis. Over time the marine environment, boat vibration and the expansion and contraction of conductors due to temperature changes (thermal cycling) can cause connections to become loose and/or corroded. Loose and corroded connections can cause electrical resistance that can lead to heat buildup in conductors, which can cause wire insulation to melt or burn and potentially start a fire. 
  1. Manufacturer or seller could be at fault because of defects which can be the source of boat fires. 
  • “More than half of boat fires (55 percent) are caused by wiring and electrical problems. Proper cable installation and robust chafing protection is just one area where builders and installers have to stay focused to ensure they are not creating a situation that could start a fire,” said Mike Telleria, a technical writer for the boat builders, Nordhavn P.A.E. 
  • The manufacturer, or the seller, can be held liable for injuries or deaths which are caused by defects in the boat, its parts, supplies or equipment depending on the circumstances of the case. Should there be a boat fire, liability for damages can be imposed for fuel leaks, fire-producing defects, or other manufacturing defects. 
  • Boats and their equipment can be recalled and removed from the market should they be found to be potentially hazardous. The U.S. Coast Guard oversees these recalls. A list of boats and equipment which have been found to be defective and recalled is published and maintained by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard also ensures manufacturers adhere to regulations set when constructing boats to ensure maximum safety, including regulations on electrical systems, fuel systems, ventilation, safe loading and flotation requirements. It has an online portal to report any defects in a boat or related equipment that is less than ten years old. You can access this portal at the U.S. Coast Guard website or you can call 1-800-368-5647. 

“Boating is fun, but being in a boating accident is not. Should you or a loved one be injured in a boating accident, contact our experienced team, at Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. to determine your rights,” said Fort Myers Boat Accident Attorney, Randall Spivey.



Fort Myers Accident Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys.  He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida.  For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to  Visit for more information.  You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.






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