NASSAU – An American woman was killed and ten others injured after the boat they were on exploded in waters off Barraterre, Exuma, early Saturday.
Police said the engine on the boat exploded, causing the vessel to catch fire.
The boat, a Four C’s Adventures craft, was carrying ten American passengers and two Bahamian crew on a tour of the Exuma Cays to visit the world famous swimming pigs.
In the aftermath of the explosion, passengers jumped overboard in an effort to escape the flames.
A second Four C’s boat approached the burning boat.
Passengers on that boat recorded portions of the rescue. Many were screaming for the captain to move away from the burning boat. Some passengers can be seen jumping off to help the victims.
Police said the victims were transported to the mini-hospital in George Town. Six of them were later transported to Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) on New Providence. Three of the six were discharged, including the boat’s captain.
Two remained in the Intensive Care Unit at PMH.
The US Coast Guard said it airlifted four Americans to South Florida.
Minister of gealth Dr Duane Sands said yesterday the woman who died was airlifted to New Providence on Saturday night where an autopsy will be performed on her.
The guests were headed out for a half-day tour of the Exuma Cays that is capped off by visiting the pigs on Big Major Cay.
The popular tours of the Exumas include stops to feed iguanas, snorkel in Thunderball Grotto near Staniel Cay and a stop for lunch in Black Point.
Some of the tours include a stop to Compass Cay for swimming with nurse sharks. Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper was in Exuma after the accident.
“I flew into Exuma just after they had brought in the patients,” he said yesterday. “It was a somber mood at the hospital. People were very obviously concerned about what happened. The emergency crew at the health facility performed at the highest level in my view.
“We saw a physician flown in from Long Island to assist the staff at the hospital, so really we saw engagement at all levels.
“The ministry of tourism personnel were on the ground at the clinic as well.
“It was a very sad moment having to really face the family who had just experienced the kind of tragedy that they did.”
Cooper explained that Four C’s Adventures is one of the largest tour operators in Exuma.
“It is a tragedy in every respect,” Cooper said.
“My heart certainly goes out to the family. I think it is going to be a slight set back and I think it will have a temporary impact.”
According to Cooper, Four C’s continued its tours yesterday with full boats.
Minister of tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday the ministry was assisting the victims and their families.
“This is an incredibly tragic event,” he said. “The loss of life is – words can’t describe how heartbreaking this must be for her family.
“What started off as a good day turned into a nightmare. We still don’t know what caused the accident. This is very, very tragic. I’m sure the entire Bahamian people are heartbroken over this event.”
The minister noted that he did not want to focus on the impact the tragedy may have on the industry.
He said his focus was on the families.
Asked about changes to the medical emergency infrastructure on the island, D’Aguilar said, “It’s very difficult to have the required services in every nook and cranny of this country.
“The mere makeup of it, the archipelagic makeup of it, makes it difficult.
“Now your point is that Exuma is probably reaching that threshold where it is reaching a critical mass. Potentially and possibly it could require additional healthcare facilities to deal with events such as these.”
D’Aguilar said his team is awaiting the results of the police investigation.
“I think it would be premature to act now without knowing what happened,” he said.
“Obviously all of our focus is on the individuals who were injured.
“The ministry of tourism is excellent in assisting and helping those that were injured, connecting them with family and having their family to come in, assisting them with anything they need [and] just trying to make the experience less painful than it is.
“We have an excellent team on the ground to assist the families in any way we can.
“I think we do an excellent job.”
(The Nassau Guardian)