The owner of a boat docked at Broad Creek Marina mistakenly pumped 77 gallons of gasoline into the hull instead of the fuel tank Monday, triggering an hours-long response that successfully kept the boat from leaking or catching fire.
The owner of the 19-foot Sea Pro thought he was putting fuel into the tank shortly after noon. But he was pumping it into a fishing-rod holder, said Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division spokeswoman Joheida Fister.
Personnel from Fire & Rescue, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Coast Guard and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources arrived before 12:50 p.m., while the marina's general manager, Nate Jones, cleared the area around the boat.
Jones said the rod holder "looks a whole lot like the fuel hole."
"It's an easy mistake to make if you're not paying attention," he said.
When the owner realized gas had filled the boat's bottom, he turned off the batteries, which are in the hull, Fister said. But fire officials remained concerned the batteries could ignite the fuel, so they called a towing company to pull the boat out into the water away from the dock, Fister said.
The Coast Guard directed water traffic away from the boat until it could be relocated at about 3 p.m. to an area of the marina made of concrete.
A forklift hoisted the boat, while Fire & Rescue emptied the gasoline into barrels through a drain, setting up containers to prevent spills, Fister said.
The operation ended at about 4 p.m., with no fuel spilled, Fister said.
Coast Guard Sector Charleston said it will send investigators Tuesday to confirm that no gas entered the water.
Fister said fire officials had hoses aimed at the boat throughout the operation.
Jones said marina employees will clean the boat, and he is thankful the responders kept everybody safe and prevented a spill.
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allison.