BIG FORK, Minn. (KMSP) - Ryan Leininger’s ankle is still taped, with his right foot still badly blistered from a boating nightmare on Big Turtle Lake in Big Fork, Minnesota.
It all unfolded with a pair of young cousins on the tube and an engine that wouldn’t fire.
“It started making really weird noise, shaking, then it blew up. It happened so fast. In an instant, I was in the water and the boat was burning. It happened that fast,” Leininger said. “It’s still unbelievable to me. I wake up at night with bad dreams, honestly."
With siblings and children spread out across the country, the Leiningers were gathered for their big, week-long family vacation at Arcadia Lodge in Itasca County, ready for water-skiing, tubing and more.
When the fire erupted, the men tossed one of young girls off the boat and into the water to avoid the flames, while her cousin immediately jumped in after.
Fortunately, they all had life jackets and were quickly pulled to safety by family members on jet skis and good Samaritans boating nearby.
“When you have your kids with you and something like that happens, you dream what could have happened, not the way it went. Like a nightmare, you wake up…it’s terrible.”
Ryan Leininger and the two girls ended up in the hospital for a short time because of cuts, bruises and burns they suffered. They quickly returned to join the rest of the family and make the most of a prized summer tradition.
The Leiningers said they are so grateful the explosion wasn’t worse and that they’re still puzzled by what happened and why, given they’d been boating for several days when that engine exploded.
“It could’ve been way worse,” Ryan Leininger said.
In fact, Ryan Leininger said one of the injured girls was sitting on top of the engine compartment before it exploded and the only reason why she wasn't more seriously hurt was because Ryan asked her to move so he could shoot photos of the tubers.