Burning boat sinks off Hilton Head Island; shrimp boat destroyed by fire at Savannah pier

astice@islandpacket.comOctober 21, 2011 

Five people were rescued from a 75-foot recreational vessel that caught fire about nine miles east of Hilton Head Island at about 11 a.m. Friday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The passengers were rescued from a life raft by another boat, according to Lee Bower of Coast Guard Base Charleston.

The burning vessel sank near the mouth of Port Royal Sound channel, with smoke rising from the water visible from the shore.

The Coast Guard is investigating reports of oil pollution, Bower said. The cause of the fire has not been determined, he added.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident, a damaged shrimp boat towed to the President Street pier in Savannah after the Coast Guard rescued two passengers from it Thursday was destroyed by fire Friday morning.

Firefighters battled the blaze on the Justin Bradley for more than three hours beginning at 6:30 a.m., according to Southside Fire Department assistant chief of fire operations Hugh Futrell.

Owner and captain Jason Frazier and another passenger were sleeping onboard and escaped without injury, Futrell said.

A tanker and two fire engine companies contained the fire to the shrimp boat, and firefighters climbed on board with chain saws and axes to extinguish the flames, Futrell said.

The fire began in the engine compartment but its exact cause has not been determined, Futrell said. The shrimp boat was a total loss.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

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