INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. (KMSP) - It was a close call for a boating party on the Mississippi River Sunday as the boat they were riding in exploded at a fueling station.
According to the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office the explosion occurred when the driver started the engine after getting gas at the River Heights Marina, eventually drifting under the Rock Island Swing bridge while still on fire.
“It went from a light amount of smoke to engulfed in flames,” said Jess Rodgers who manages nearby restaurant Mississippi Pub.
After failed attempts at putting out the flames with a fire extinguisher, the owners were forced to untie the boat and get it away from the fueling station. No one was in the cabin when the explosion occurred, and everyone made it to safety.
“The owner was holding onto the front of it with their rope and he just let it go. He finally just had to let it go,” said 17-year-old Brad Dohmen, who was working at the fueling station.
Dohmen said he had just pumped 110 gallons of gas into the 35-foot cabin cruiser when the explosion occurred.
“They paid for the gas and went to untie, and I turned and the windows blew out and exploded,” Dohmen said.
“At only 17 he really stepped up and did a fantastic job, kept calm,” said Rodgers, who gave Dohmen credit for immediately heading for the emergency gas shutoff.
The Dakota County Sheriff said the bridge only suffered minor damage and reopened to pedestrian traffic Monday morning after passing an inspection.
The boat eventually floated south of the bridge and sank. The owners will be responsible for recovery.