STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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 11:25 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: 253932

Reported Deaths: 5524
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17120175
Hinds16207322
Harrison13353193
Rankin10689211
Jackson10303183
Lee8796141
Madison8232162
Jones6288110
Forrest5949119
Lauderdale5847180
Lowndes5355116
Lafayette494292
Lamar484165
Washington4777123
Bolivar3966108
Oktibbeha392480
Panola368378
Pontotoc362853
Monroe3533105
Warren348498
Union343060
Marshall341665
Neshoba3370152
Pearl River327899
Leflore3002105
Lincoln297085
Sunflower282669
Tate270862
Hancock266559
Alcorn263253
Itawamba262459
Pike262077
Scott246245
Prentiss245052
Yazoo244355
Copiah240849
Tippah240450
Simpson234867
Leake230564
Coahoma230054
Grenada217770
Covington211371
Marion210672
Adams204670
Winston200164
Wayne199630
George199038
Attala193559
Newton191342
Tishomingo184459
Chickasaw183644
Jasper169735
Holmes168567
Clay159033
Stone142320
Tallahatchie140134
Clarke138660
Calhoun135721
Smith120123
Yalobusha116534
Walthall111836
Noxubee110322
Greene109729
Montgomery109434
Carroll104221
Lawrence102417
Perry101631
Amite97725
Webster92224
Tunica86321
Claiborne86125
Jefferson Davis84125
Humphreys82924
Benton81523
Kemper77120
Quitman6888
Franklin66415
Choctaw60313
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53819
Sharkey42717
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 422598

Reported Deaths: 6120
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62039921
Mobile30225548
Madison27052186
Tuscaloosa20728267
Montgomery18978305
Shelby18504114
Baldwin16251182
Lee12465101
Morgan12233113
Etowah11735168
Calhoun11122200
Marshall10191107
Houston8598148
Cullman8023105
Limestone800274
Elmore7836101
DeKalb768397
Lauderdale754683
St. Clair7535120
Talladega6166108
Walker5897174
Jackson580341
Colbert532073
Blount530483
Autauga518455
Coffee441056
Dale396181
Franklin366248
Chilton336165
Russell330310
Covington327268
Escambia316842
Dallas303196
Chambers282769
Clarke281433
Tallapoosa2616107
Pike248729
Marion245650
Lawrence243647
Winston226635
Bibb215147
Geneva201435
Marengo199029
Pickens196531
Hale175842
Barbour172936
Butler169658
Fayette168226
Cherokee160330
Henry153621
Monroe145217
Randolph139835
Washington137626
Clay126145
Crenshaw118744
Lamar118019
Cleburne117423
Macon114735
Lowndes110335
Wilcox103121
Bullock99028
Perry97419
Conecuh94420
Sumter89026
Greene76023
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 58°
Columbus
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 57°
Oxford
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 54°
Starkville
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 55°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather