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Remains of scorched boat recovered from Lake Wylie for investigation

Officials have not yet determined the cause of a boat crash Wednesday atthe Tega Cay Marine that sent four members of a Charlotte family tohospitals.

Lt. Robert McCullough of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources saidthis morning it might take some time before they can determine thecause.

"The problem is because of how it happened," he said. "Most of it willprobably be speculation."

Divers spent much of Thursday afternoon attempting to salvage the37-foot cabin cruiser in one piece, but the explosion destroyed much ofthe boat. A 15-foot section of the bow and its railing broke free whiledivers attempted to lift it, leaving remains of the hull and engines onthe lake bottom.

"Hopefully there will be enough left to indicate the cause," McCulloughsaid.

The boat was pulling away from the fuel dock Wednesday, drifting towarda second dock when it exploded. The burning boat was towed away from themarina, sinking about 100 feet from the fueling dock in about 28 feet ofwater near the channel to the marina.

McCullough did not have any updates on the four members of the family,who he last heard remained in hospitals Friday with injuries from theaccident.

The father and his 11-year-old son are being treated for serious burnsat the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina atChapel Hill. Two other sons are being treated at Carolinas MedicalCenter in Charlotte for less severe burns, he said. One has a brokenleg.

In all, six people were on the boat, a family of five and a girlfriend.

The mother of the family was treated and released from Carolinas MedicalCenter in Charlotte, and the girlfriend was not injured.

The names of the victims have not been released.

On Wednesday, onlookers rushed into the lake to help pull the family from the water.

A preliminary investigation determined that the boaters refueled about 1:30 p.m., said Mike Channell, York County Emergency Management coordinator.

Five other boats and part of a dock were damaged by the fire, said Lt. Sandy Young of the Department of Natural Resources.

Carol Earnheart, who lives on the lake about two houses from the marina, said she heard "screams you don't ever want to hear" from the burned children.

Earnheart said she watched as members of Lemmond's Marine Service of Fort Mill raced to save the children.

Ted Lemmond said it took him and his crew about 30 seconds to reach the accident.

"It was the scariest thing I've ever seen; the flames were chasing them," Antionette Felker said Thursday of rescuers Lemmond, Donald Brown and Guy Piercy, as they helped the injured.

Young said officials won't be able to complete the investigation until the boat is pulled out of the marina. Divers said they hoped to complete the task Thursday evening.

Divers used bags inflated by air to salvage the boat.

A section of the bow broke free but the rest of the boat was stuck to the bottom, Lemmond said. The smell of gas filled the air as divers worked to free the boat.

Wednesday's explosion was the second involving a boat on a Charlotte-area lake in three years. In 2008, a boater on Lake Norman died when a spark ignited gas vapors on a house boat.

While the cause of Wednesday's explosion has not been determined, Spivey said boaters should properly vent their vessels after fueling by using the blower to sift gas away from the engine compartment. Then, they should make sure they don't smell gas fumes before starting the engine.

He said boaters often skip this step, and it can lead to fires.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources and York County Emergency Management officials are investigating.

The Department of Natural Resources does not expect to file criminal charges in this incident, McCullough said.

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