Clean up continues after 2 shrimp boats catch fire, sink in river

Dive crews work to remove fuel, contain possible pollution

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dive crews continued to remove fuel Wednesday from two shrimp boats that caught fire and sank to the bottom of the St. Johns River early Tuesday morning, the Coast Guard said.

The fire broke out about 3 a.m. Tuesday, sending the 69-foot Triton II and the 40-foot Iris Marie up in flames at the Safe Harbor Marina near the Safe Harbor Seafood Market & Restaurant on Ocean Street.

Firefighters worked for several hours, trying to control the flames and smoke coming from the vessels. The Iris Marie sank into the river well before sunrise and the Triton sank just before 8 a.m.

No injuries were reported.

An oil boom could still be seen Wednesday morning in the river where the boats sank. The Coast Guard said it’s working to contain any possible liquid pollution, and dive crews will need to remove all the fuel from the boats before the vessels can be salvaged.

So far, according to the Coast Guard, there are no reports of pollutants outside of the containment area.

Joe Floyd, the owner of the Iris Marie, told News4Jax that he was trying to focus on the positive the day after he said the fire started on his boat and spread to the Triton II. If the fire had started an hour later Tuesday morning, Floyd said, his crews would have been out shrimping. He said his boat caught fire and burned completely within the short span of 10 minutes, which would have meant his crew would have had to abandon ship in the frigid air and ocean temperatures.

Floyd said he’s pretty sure that the fire sparked from the generator’s exhaust, which was pointed outside the boat. Floyd also said the engine room was flammable because it was made entirely of wood. As the boat burned, according to Floyd, his crew members cut the lines to the boat to push it off the dock, but a strong onshore wind pushed the boat up against the fiberglass Triton II, which also caught fire and sunk.

Neither boat owner was insured. Floyd said the cost of insurance was more than his boat was worth because of its age. As for the other vessel, fiberglass commercial shrimp boats are not insurable.

The Coast Guard has opened up funds to get the cleanup done immediately, and at some point, the costs will be passed along to the boat owners in the near future.

There’s no timetable for when the boats will be removed from the river.

About the Authors: