Fire burns man, destroys 2 boats

1 injured in boat fire on Hendricks Isle

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A 50-year-old man suffered burns when his boat caught fire in Fort Lauderdale.

The Chico Malo, a 40-foot Mainship Motor Yacht, caught fire at 77 Hendricks Isle about 7:35 a.m. Wednesday. The flames then spread to a 38-foot Hunter sailboat.

"At first, I thought it was thunder but then I heard the screams," said Reggie Fecteau, the manager at KiraMar Waterfront Villas. "By the time I got out of the apartment, the flames were already too high to use my fire hose and try and take it down."

"Within five minutes, it was all up in flames and big, black clouds and everybody was running out," said Natalie Tasse.

The Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal's office said a man onboard, identified by friends as Bart Lopresti, smelled gasoline, and noted the odor became stronger when he went below deck. He turned on the blige pump, which appeared to ignite the flames.

It took crews about 15 minutes to extinguish the inferno.

"The crews, when they arrived, they applied foam to the fire to put out it out quickly and smother the flames," said Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Division Chief Timothy Heiser.

Fecteau said 50-year-old Lopresti, his 4-year-old son, and the boy's mother were onboard. It was their last week of a three-week vacation from New Jersey.

Lopresti suffered burns and was transported to Broward General. He was later transferred as a trauma alert to Jackson Memorial Hospital. His condition wasn't immediately released.

"His hair was burned off. It was just horrible," said Tasse. "I mean, the clothes were just burned off. It was awful."

"He didn't know what to do," added. Fecteau. "He was in shock. I told him to go and take a cold shower right away so he could stop the skin from burning."

Lopresti's son and the boy's mother weren't injured.

"All he said was, 'The boat went boom,'" said Jade Tasse. "I don't think fully understood what was going on and I'm kind of happy he didn't."

Two men onboard the sailboat also weren't injured. Both boats were destroyed.

A third boat, a 35-foot Maxum Motor Yacht, was damaged.