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.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 537813

Reported Deaths: 11024
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson791691529
Mobile41177808
Madison35002507
Tuscaloosa25871454
Shelby25076249
Montgomery24549591
Baldwin21290309
Lee15946171
Calhoun14556319
Morgan14364280
Etowah13890353
Marshall12262223
Houston10602282
Elmore10115206
Limestone10031151
St. Clair9890245
Cullman9730194
Lauderdale9449243
DeKalb8853188
Talladega8325176
Walker7259277
Autauga6971108
Jackson6830112
Blount6750139
Colbert6317134
Coffee5546119
Dale4869113
Russell444338
Chilton4343113
Franklin426282
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4040152
Escambia394577
Chambers3581123
Dallas3564153
Clarke351361
Marion3137101
Pike311977
Lawrence302298
Winston275673
Bibb263064
Geneva252577
Marengo249664
Pickens234862
Barbour231956
Hale223677
Butler217869
Fayette212462
Henry189644
Cherokee184345
Randolph182042
Monroe178140
Washington167639
Macon160750
Clay156957
Crenshaw153357
Cleburne149241
Lamar143035
Lowndes139653
Wilcox127430
Bullock123041
Conecuh110629
Coosa108928
Perry107826
Sumter104932
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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