OCEAN CITY — A potentially tragic afternoon had a somewhat happy ending on Monday when a rented pontoon boat caught fire in the back bays near Assateague and West Ocean City, but all seven people on board were safely removed by a Good Samaritan.
Around 4:45 p.m. on Monday, in the midst of a sudden severe thunderstorm that soaked the resort area, seven people from New Jersey rented a pontoon boat from Under the Bridge Watersports and headed south in the Sinepuxent Bay for a late afternoon of tubing. The crew on the boat saw the skies darkening and the storm approaching and attempted to turn back.
According to Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP), the crew on the rented pontoon smelled something burning and the engine stopped working in the bay behind Mystic Harbor in West Ocean City. Attempts to restart the engine failed and flames suddenly appeared. Soon, the entire vessel was engulfed in flames.
A Good Samaritan on another vessel safely removed the seven people from the burning boat and no one was injured. The NRP, Coast Guard and Ocean City Fire Boat responded, but the vessel burned to the waterline. According to the NRP, the vessel’s owner is hoping to salvage it.
The late Monday boat burning was one of two incidents involving a rented pontoon. Earlier in the day, around 1:30 p.m., a group of eight females rented a 24-foot pontoon boat and took it through the Inlet and into the ocean against the advice from the renter not to do so. The crew on the rented pontoon beached the vessel near the north end of Assateague about a quarter mile from the Inlet. The eight females safely got off the vessel, but a commercial tow was required to bring the pontoon back through the Inlet and into port. No violations were issued by the NRP.