Rescued Jacksonville boat captain: 'There were flames everywhere'
July 17, 2012 6:39 AM EDT
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Third-generation fisherman Willie Allen may pride himself on being a salty dog, but even he knows when it's time to abandon ship.
That time came shortly before dawn Monday aboard the 79-foot Miss Ingrid Louis as a raging engine room fire threatened the lives of Allen, the boat's captain, and his three-man crew off the coast of Nassau Sound.
"There were flames everywhere," Allen said. "I wasn't concerned about me. I was concerned about the guys on the boat."
Allen, 44, of Jacksonville, was briefly hospitalized for smoke inhalation. The others were not injured. Allen identified the crew as Gary Harris of St. Augustine, Kelvin Jackson of Hastings and Richard Wiggins of Atlantic Beach.
The boat sank after a prolonged fire fight by the Coast Guard, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and other agencies ended about 9:15 a.m. — five hours after the fire was first reported.
Allen said he and the other men left Brunswick Sunday morning for a shrimping and fishing trip. He said they later cast anchor about three miles east of Nassau Sound near Big Talbot State Park.
Allen said they had dinner and went to bed at midnight with plans to resume their work Monday. He said Wiggins awoke about 4 a.m. smelling smoke and woke the others. They found smoke billowing from the engine room.
Allen said he wrapped a wet towel around his face and furiously tried to put the fire out with an extinguisher and hose, but the smoke continued building. Alarms began to ring and Allen found the fire had knocked out the boat's radio.
"I couldn't get in there. I could barely see," Allen said of the engine room. "Eventually we started seeing flames come out on the port side where one of my fuel tanks was."