Improper venting of fumes investigated as possible cause of Manorhaven boat explosion

A boat refueling at a Manorhaven marina went up in flames after it exploded, killing one man, forcing another to jump into the water and burning a dock worker who got the drifting, fiery vessel away from shore. (Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin and Howard Schnapp)

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Authorities are investigating whether improperly vented gas fumes were the cause of a Manorhaven boat explosion that killed former Plandome Manor Mayor Robert Hogan on Wednesday.

Witnesses told investigators that the explosion occurred while the motorboat was being refueled at the Manhasset Bay Marina at Matinecock Avenue and that the inboard engine may have just been started, igniting fumes in the engine compartment, officials said.

Gas-run boats usually have blowers that clear out potentially dangerous fuel fumes before the engine starts. Among the questions investigators want to answer is whether the vessel had a blower, and whether that blower malfunctioned, officials said.

"That's one of the big reasons they pulled the boat up," Nassau fire marshal's office Assistant Chief Michael F. Uttaro said Thursday, referring to the boat's submerged hull, which was raised Thursday. "They need to get a better look at the parts."

The explosion killed Hogan, 74, the boat owner, while a passenger was able to escape harm by diving into the water.

Investigators from the Nassau County fire marshal's office had the remains of the 33-foot Carver lifted up and placed on a barge Thursday. They will pull the boat apart, photograph damage, take samples and send them to a lab for testing, Uttaro said.

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Two dock workers at the fuel pump were uninjured, but police said a third dock worker got on a boat and shoved the burning vessel away from the dock, sustaining burns on his arms and face. The vessel drifted into an adjoining dock, setting it on fire and damaging two other boats.

The injured worker was hospitalized in stable condition Wednesday. An update on his condition was not available Thursday.

Hogan was a former NYPD captain and co-founder of the Manhattan College Pipes & Drums band in the Bronx. Besides his work in local politics and policing, he once worked as New York City assistant traffic commissioner and was a decades-long member of the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes & Drums band.

Renowned in local bagpipe circles for his teaching and playing abilities, Hogan received a master's degree in business administration from Manhattan College in 1975 and co-founded its pipes and drum band in the early 1980s, said Thomas McCarthy, the college's director of alumni relations.

Hogan served as band director until his son, Mike Hogan, took his place about 15 years ago, McCarthy said.

"Bob was really like a second father to some of the band members," said McCarthy. "He was a great man, a family man, and . . . touched so many through his outstanding career of civil and public service."

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