Coast Guard rescues crew after fishing boat explodes

Dog also rescued from vessel in St. Simons Island Sound

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Four men and a dog escaped serious injury early Thursday morning when their fishing boat exploded in the St. Simons Island Sound.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the 58-foot fishing boat Predator caught fire at 3:53 a.m. and the crew abandoned ship.

LISTEN: Distress call from boat on fire

In a distress call, a man said his boat was on fire in the harbor in Brunswick across from the Jekyll Island pier.

"The command center in Brunswick contacted station Brunswick crew and launched a 45-foot response boat to the location. When they left the station and got in the channel, they saw the fishing vessel explode," Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Clayton said. "They were able to home in on the location immediately. They were able to recover the crew and their dog at about 4:25 a.m." 

The men suffered only minor injuries.

Dock manager Bruce Collins said the captain of the Predator usually stays out for three to four days at a time. He said he doesn't know may details about the fire, but said Capt. Robert Long is one of the hardest-working boaters he knows.

The vessel sank after the explosion, leaving only the mast visible above the water.

“For the most part, everything is safe. Of course, like everything, there is danger in a lot of things,” Collis said.
Long is a boater many in the community are familiar with.

“He's one of the better fishermen around here,” Collins said. “When I say better fishermen, I mean he's a hard fisherman. He goes out and fishes hard.”

Collins said he has been fishing in the area for years. He said many of the shrimpers in the area are regulars at his market, but he hasn't heard much about Thursday's fire.

Investigators do not know what caused the fire.

Collins said he believes the fire can't be blamed on how Long takes care of his ship.

“I don't think it was any fault of maintenance not being done, because he was pretty on top of his maintenance being done. He kept a pretty good ship,” Collins said.

The Coast Guard is warning mariners about debris in the water from the explosion.

"For safety reasons we put out an emergency bulletin to warn other mariners about the fire in the area. There could potentially be debris where the boat fire was. We haven't picked any debris out of the water. It's too early, but there is a possibility there is debris in the area," Clayton said.