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8 hurt when boat explodes during Lake Havasu watercraft contest; 5 go to hospital with burns


LAKE HAVASU CITY, Arizona — Investigators were trying to determine Sunday what caused a boat to explode during a personal watercraft competition on Lake Havasu and leave a family severely burned.

Two adults and three children with burn injuries were taken to a Havasu Regional Medical Center after the Saturday night explosion, Lake Havasu City police spokesman Nolan Smith said.

Smith said he did not know their current condition but confirmed they were all part of the same family.

A representative for the hospital was not immediately available Sunday.

Officials say hundreds of people were watching the watercraft trick contest at the International Jet Sports Boating Association World Finals when witnesses reported the loud explosion in the pleasure boat's engine compartment.

Lake Havasu City fire Battalion Chief Michael Quijada says the force of the blast blew the engine hatch about 50 feet into the air. He says the fire burned itself out and everyone aboard got to shore before emergency crews arrived. Three others standing nearby suffered minor injuries and declined treatment, Quijada said.

Police Cpl. Jared Kyer told the Today's News-Herald ( ) that the boat exploded when a family preparing to leave the event started it up.

Though the cause has yet to be determine, Quijada said the impact on the engine hatch indicates there may have been a fuel buildup.

"You're supposed to turn on the blower, wait three or four minutes and let that low-lying fuel be fanned out of the engine compartment," Quijada said. "A lot of people forget to do that or the blower has a hole in the venting system."

Greg Burkle, who was in a nearby boat, said bystanders reacted quickly and tried to put out the fire.

"Everybody just kind of scattered, then we went back to put the flames out before it hit the gas tank," Burkle told the Today's News-Herald. "Everyone was trying to make sure the kids were OK and get the fire out before there was a worse explosion."

Meanwhile, the last day of the watercraft competition continued as scheduled Sunday. Smith said the explosion occurred in the Bridgewater Channel away from where the races are conducted.

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