LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Several of the burned boats now kissing Lake Mead’s floor, including the one that allegedly began a chain of at least 37 vessels catching fire early Sunday morning, are key evidence in an investigation that investigators say will take “several weeks” to complete.

The sleepy “I” and “R” docks at the Las Vegas Boat Harbor Marina turned into a raging inferno within minutes of the first report at about 12:30 a.m. on Sunday. The harbor reported 11 vessels were destroyed and 26 others were damaged.  

One of those sunken boats is Judy Roman’s “homebase.” Roman said she and her partner purchased the 1993 houseboat at the pandemic’s onset and just recently finished renovations. She was in California when a fellow boat owner alerted her that it had sunk.

Security footage from her boat shows a clear deck at 12:30 a.m. before cutting out due to intense smoke and heat by 12:38 a.m.

“We’re helpless because we’re so far away, and it had already happened,” Roman said during a virtual interview Thursday afternoon from the RV she says she and her partner spend the other half of their time in. It will now be full-time. “It was our happy place, and it’s gone. I mean literally gone.”

The National Park Service (NPS) is leading the investigation and expects the process of assessing damage and addressing future cleanup concerns to last at least until July. Investigators have yet to determine a cause.

But, per other videos and interviews Bruce Nelson has seen, the marina’s vice president of operations said he believes the fire was an “accident” and “most likely an electrical fire.”

In an exclusive tour Thursday, Nelson identified the slip on the “I” dock where the fire began in a houseboat. That boat is now underneath the slip, and it’s key evidence investigators need to pull out.

“A good Samaritan pulled a boat out, creating a fire break. Two boats were actually pulled out by good Samaritans. I’m not sure who,” Nelson said during the Thursday tour. “(They) probably saved the day from the fire spreading further south and ruining all these boats.”

It did spread north, Nelson said, by watercraft that were on fire. He said ropes attaching them to their original slips burned and allowed them to float to the “R” dock, which is now visibly charred like the “I” dock. 

Salvation and recovery efforts can’t begin until NPS grants permission. Owners are working through their insurance companies to retrieve sunken vessels, the largest being 55 feet long, Nelson said.

“They are remnants of what they used to be of course. They’re not nearly as big as they were because most of the large above-water surfaces have been burned and disintegrated,” Nelson said.

“We have seen a lot of different things over the years. This is the worst, in regards to how many boats were lost and the damage to the docks. The structure has to be replaced and there’s things that need to be done that we just have to fix,” he said.

Until then, owners of boats still above water are only permitted 30-minute windows via appointment to retrieve personal belongings. Roman said her insurance will likely only cover 50% of her houseboat’s value, prompting her family to start a GoFundMe.

The pictures and memories that were on the houseboat are priceless to her.

“There’s 36 families that feel the way I do. Yeah, it’s just heartbreaking,” Roman said. “I’m trying not to think about the future because, you know, we have nothing to go back to.”

Nelson added that hired security was on site before the Sunday morning fire but are not trained to respond to a fire like this.

Source link