Alabama boat dock fire: Four of the 8 who died were children, authorities say

Damage from the deadly fire at Jackson County boat dock in Scottsboro, Alabama.

At least four of the eight people killed in Monday morning's boat doc...

Posted: Jan 28, 2020 11:24 AM
Updated: Jan 28, 2020 1:45 PM

At least four of the eight people killed in Monday morning's boat dock fire in northeastern Alabama were children ranging in age from 7 to 16, a coroner said Tuesday.

The other four who died at Jackson County Park Marina at Guntersville Lake are presumed to be adults, county Coroner John Jordan said. The victims' names have not been released, and dental records are being used to identify the remains, he said.

The preliminary investigation is focused on 'one boat in particular,' Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus told reporters Tuesday. The boat was being examined off site by state and federal investigators.

Identification of remains will depend on the forensic work required, including the use of dental records and possibly even DNA, according to Necklaus. 'That could take up to six months unfortunately,' he said, adding that names would be released by the State Fire Marshal's Office.

The fire, starting not long after midnight, tore through numerous boats that were docked at the lake. Some of the boats were occupied, and the flames forced several people to jump into the water to escape.

Some of the roughly 35 destroyed vessels were houseboats where people lived full-time. Seven people swam to safety or were rescued, and were taken to a hospital for treatment, officials said.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the fire.

Paul Smith, director of the Jackson County Emergency Management, said work crews on Tuesday were recovering debris and containing and collecting fuel that spilled. Water samples were being taken.

'They don't expect any human impact or environmental impact,' he said.

Four boats that drifted away and sank about 250 feet from the dock have to be removed, Smith said.

There are simultaneous investigations being conducted by the US Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board as well as the State Fire Marshal and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Thought officials were 'cautiously confident' about the number of fatalities, dive teams remained on site in case other remains were found.

'People ... were jumping into the water'

Firefighters arrived around 12:40 a.m. local time Monday to a chaotic scene, Necklaus told HLN.

'People ... were jumping into the water, either off the back of their boats or retreating to the end of the dock just trying to avoid the fire before they had to,' Necklaus said Tuesday. 'Several people would pile up in a boat, it appears, and then try to push away from the dock.

'But boats were burning, floating off, bumping into each other and setting other boats on fire just as fast as you can imagine.'

The fire's location -- on a covered dock that extended well out into the lake -- made it difficult for firefighters to access, Necklaus told reporters a day earlier.

'Those boats burn at such a fast rate, and in that environment with the (dock's) wood structure and the full roof, that fire spread so quick, so much quicker than you can imagine.'

Authorities said late Monday afternoon that it appears everyone is accounted for, although that will not be finalized until all the boats have been removed from the water and inspected.

Shane O'Neal, owner of Southern Marine Towing & Salvage, told CNN affiliate WAFF that his team lifted one vessel Monday that had four bodies inside.

The seven people taken to a hospital were treated and quickly released, the fire department said. Some had minor injuries or minor hypothermia from the cold water.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16322

Reported Deaths: 782
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds106626
Lauderdale76068
Madison75727
Neshoba72244
Jones68632
Scott66212
Forrest59239
DeSoto5598
Leake45412
Rankin4538
Holmes44130
Copiah3254
Jackson30914
Attala30718
Yazoo2914
Newton2834
Lincoln27829
Leflore27336
Oktibbeha26714
Monroe26725
Harrison2657
Lamar2485
Lowndes2419
Wayne2353
Pearl River21231
Pike20511
Adams20216
Washington1947
Noxubee1936
Warren19110
Lee1857
Covington1772
Jasper1664
Bolivar16611
Clarke15519
Smith15311
Lafayette1504
Kemper14911
Chickasaw14014
Coahoma1284
Winston1221
Clay1184
Carroll11611
Marion1169
Claiborne1145
Lawrence1081
Simpson1040
Grenada1003
Yalobusha976
Sunflower933
Itawamba907
Hancock9012
Tate881
Union867
Montgomery861
Panola853
Marshall853
Wilkinson859
Jefferson Davis813
Tippah7611
Webster673
Calhoun674
Amite651
Walthall630
Humphreys607
Tunica563
Prentiss533
Perry513
Choctaw482
Pontotoc453
Jefferson421
Tishomingo350
Greene331
Stone320
Quitman310
Tallahatchie301
Franklin292
George281
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18554

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2284118
Jefferson1884103
Montgomery182343
Tuscaloosa82216
Marshall7059
Franklin5788
Lee55834
Shelby52220
Tallapoosa43266
Butler41918
Walker3812
Elmore3729
Chambers35926
Madison3464
Morgan2981
Unassigned2972
Baldwin2929
Dallas2873
Etowah26212
Lowndes25912
DeKalb2573
Autauga2395
Coffee2391
Sumter2287
Houston2265
Bullock2156
Pike2080
Colbert1872
Hale1799
Russell1770
Barbour1771
Marengo1746
Lauderdale1692
Calhoun1653
Wilcox1547
Choctaw15310
Cullman1501
Clarke1492
St. Clair1311
Randolph1287
Marion12411
Dale1230
Pickens1215
Talladega1175
Limestone1080
Chilton1051
Greene954
Winston910
Macon874
Jackson833
Henry812
Covington811
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia753
Washington726
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe452
Geneva440
Perry420
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Tupelo
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 71°
Columbus
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 71°
Oxford
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 68°
Starkville
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather