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Victim of Bahamas boat blast airlifted to Fort Lauderdale for treatment

Tiran Jackson, whose wife was killed, suffered serious burns in explosion

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – One of the nine people injured in a deadly tour boat explosion in the Bahamas was airlifted Monday to South Florida for medical treatment. 

Tiran Jackson, who suffered serious burns, arrived at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport just before 3 p.m. en-route to Broward Health North. His wife, Maleka Jackson, was killed in the blast. 

The Jacksons traveled to the Bahamas from their home in Nashville, Tennessee, to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. The trip took a tragic turn early Saturday when the tour boat carrying 10 Americans and two Bahamians exploded off the coast of Exuma.

Denise Smith, Maleka Jackson’s aunt, said Maleka was the glue that held her family together. Maleka Jackson leaves behind a 12-year-old son.

Maleka and Tiran Jackson were celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary.

“My prayer was that I hope she didn't suffer,” Smith said. “It was a comfort knowing she did not burn on that boat because when you see that boat it's amazing that anybody got out of that boat.”

A GoFundMe page has been created to help Tiran Jackson as he undergoes multiple surgeries and physical therapy. Funds will also be used to help with the care of the couple's young son, who is currently in the care of out-of-state family members as his father remains hospitalized.

Four of the injured were airlifted to Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg on Sunday.

One of the victims, 22-year-old Stefanie Schaffer, is facing a double amputation. She and her family were also vacationing on the islands. 

She had "danced her whole childhood," her brother, George Schaffer, said.

She is in critical condition in a medically induced coma at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, George Schaffer said.

Stefanie Schaffer's mother, Stacey Bender, was also seriously injured, suffering multiple broken bones and internal injuries.

Video filmed from a nearby boat showed panicked tourists jumping into the shallow water in an attempt to rescue passengers in the burning boat. Thick, black smoke was pouring into the sky and large flames were still shooting from the disabled craft.

The cause of the explosion has not been determined at this time. Exuma police are leading the investigation.

Stefanie Schaffer, a dancer, had both her legs amputated after the explosion.

About the Authors:

Alex Finnie joined the Local 10 News team in May 2018. South Florida is home! She was raised in Miami and attended the Cushman School and New World School of the Arts for high school.