OCEAN PINES — Five people were injured, including two visiting the area from California, when a boat exploded after just leaving the dock along a canal in Ocean Pines on Sunday afternoon.
Around 2 p.m. on Sunday, Neal Edwards, 54, of Springfield, Va., who also maintains a residence in Ocean Pines, went out to his 24-foot inboard-outboard vessel to prepare for a recreational boating trip for himself, his wife and daughter and two friends visiting from Escondido, Calif. According to Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) spokesperson Candus Thomson, Edwards opened the hatches, turned on the blower and followed every other typical protocol for starting and operating a boat. He then returned to retrieve his guests and gather other supplies for a Labor Day weekend trip on the water.
Edwards returned to the vessel with his wife, Bonnie, 48, and their daughter, Shannon, 18, along with their guests from California, Dawn VanDuersen, 49, and Larry MacPherson, 57, who were visiting Maryland for the first time. The boat was lowered into the water from the boat lift and the guests boarded the vessel, which Edwards backed up from the dock.
However, when Edwards put the vessel in forward gear, the boat exploded. The occupants were thrown about the vessel during the explosion and then jumped overboard into the canal. Neighbors responded after hearing and seeing the explosion and helped the victims from the water. VanDuersen and MacPherson were in the stern and were closest to the impact of the explosion.
Shannon Edwards was at the bow and farthest from the impact area. Neal and Bonnie Edwards were taken via ambulance to PRMC in Salisbury where they were treated and released. Shannon Edwards was treated at the scene and accompanied her parents to the hospital.
VanDuersen and MacPherson were transported via Maryland State Police helicopter Trooper 4 to the Hopkins Bayview Burn Center in Baltimore with injuries not believed to be life threatening. According to Thomson, they suffered burns to their lower legs and arms.
The interior of the boat was burned entirely and the vessel burned down to the water line on the starboard side. The NRP responded and took witness statements for their own report, while the Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office is conducting an investigation.
According to Thomson, the preliminary investigation appears to reveal Edwards followed all of the normal protocol for starting a vessel and preparing it for a trip although the Fire Marshal’s Office investigation has not been completed.
“According to witness and victim statements, the hatches were open and the blower was on and all other safety procedures were in place,” she said. “It was a pretty intense fire and those folks are real lucky. Despite getting tossed around and burned, they kept their heads about them and got off the vessel, and the folks in the neighborhood responded and helped. While it wasn’t a great ending, it could have been much worse.”