New Brunswick family narrowly escapes pontoon boat explosion

A pontoon boat burst into flames in Nackawic, N.B., Saturday, leaving a New Brunswick family shaken up.

Becky York, her husband and their two children, Ella, 9, and Alex, 7, along with their 10-week-old puppy were on the family’s boat when it caught fire. It was the first time the family was using the boat this season.

York tells Global News her husband started the boat as usual in the marina, but it backfired. She says she turned around to check the motor and saw flames.

After her children jumped off the boat in life-jackets, as she said they often did for fun, York said she had to initially leave the dog on the boat, until neighbours came to the rescue.

“Some friends of ours that were at the dock, thank goodness, and seen the flames, came out with their boat,” York said.

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She says the puppy had never been swimming before, and she didn’t want to put her in the water out of fear that the dog might scratch the children as they tried to swim to shore.

“I grabbed the fire extinguisher that we had on board and my husband went back to try and put the fire out. At that point our friends were close by, I threw the puppy over into their boat and I jumped in the water to swim with my children,” York said.

Witness Danny Roy says the scene was terrifying. He was on his way t0 Nackawic when he noticed the plume of smoke over the water and cars pulling over to the side of Route 105. Roy tells Global News he pulled over and saw a boat on fire.

“I just heard popping noises and as it was going down stream it was an inferno, major inferno. There was not much left of it after about 20-25 minutes. It was completely gone,” Roy said.

Roy says the boat was so far out in the middle of the river that he wasn’t sure anyone had survived.

York says she goes over boating safety with her children quite frequently, and says if they hadn’t had life-jackets and fire extinguishers onboard they might not have been able to spend Father’s Day together.

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“We always have more life-jackets than we do people and I was really thankful that the kids knew, we all knew exactly where they were,” York said.

She says they were all ready to go as soon as they noticed the flames.

“Life-jackets are so important — it’s like a seat belt in a car. It’s your first line of defence, and if we hadn’t have had those, man yesterday could have been a much different story,” York said.

She says it really speaks to boating safety and hopes others can learn a value lesson from their close call.

“You have to have life-jackets and you have to always be [prepared], especially with children because it’s unpredictable sometimes as to what happens. And it happens so fast,” York said.

The family says once they get their new boat they plan on having even more fire extinguishers on it, as well as continuing to stock the boat with extra life-jackets.

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