Two workers were hospitalized with burns, and 16 pleasure boats dry-docked at a Freeport marina were destroyed by fire Wednesday, Nassau police said. At least four other boats were damaged.
The two injured men, both 30 and from Roosevelt, were extracting a fuel tank from a boat that was in storage at Approved Marine, 11 Hudson Ave., police said. Believing the tank to be completely empty of fuel, detectives said, the workmen attempted to cut the tank out from its position using a power saw. This caused sparks that ignited residual fuel and fumes that burst into flames, police said.
Freeport Fire Department Chief Mark Stuparich said about 200 firefighters from eight departments arrived shortly after the 3:44 p.m. alarm and fought the blaze for about two hours before it was extinguished.
"It's over a million dollars' loss is my guesstimate," Stuparich said. "It could have been a lot worse." Another 40 boats were in proximity of the fire and were threatened during the battle, he said.
Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick, who went to the scene, said, "I'm praying that people have the right insurance; the boat owners, the boatyard. This type of damage could really ruin a business."
"This is going to be devastating to a lot of people," Stuparich said.
Chris Squeri said he represented the owners of the marina, a family-run concern that has operated it for many years. Squeri said Wednesday night that the owners weren't yet able to talk publicly about the fire. "They are very upset right now," Squeri said. "We're just hoping they [the two workers] come through. Our biggest concern is that they come through this OK."
Robert Messineo lives in Lynbrook but said he was listening to the radio when he learned there was a boatyard fire on Hudson Avenue in Freeport.
"You learn about it and your heart's in your throat," Messineo said, adding that he rushed to the fire site and found that his own boat, next door at Jeff Star Marina, was not damaged. Although relieved, Messineo said he empathized with the owners whose boats were destroyed.
"This is a boating community. There's an emotional attachment," Messineo said. "It's got to be heart-wrenching for those people."