Sisu gas boat explosion

Frigate

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After my post three weeks ago on the top of page six in BillD's 25T Jason Rehab/Repower Project, Bill asked me to explain my statement about not going on a gas boat again. As he thought it may save someones life. Well after a week out of town at a conference and after a few rewrites this is why I will not go out on a gas boat again.


In 1977 my father had Sisu build him a 22' gas inboard. On August 15, 1982 as we were pulling into slip the boat blow up. The engine box came off and protected my father and I got second and third degree burns over 35% of my body.


On my father's boat the fill hose was fiberglassed to the side of the hull and was radiator hose.Sisu installed a 28 gal. plastic gas tank with no baffles, abeam in the boat. At that time my father and I did a lot of shark fishing. Drifting the gas moved from one end of the tank to the other. Sisu never told us it was a 28 gal. tank. At the time of the explosion we were putting 31 gal. in the tank. So as the main plastic tank expanded the metal plate on the tank with the fill (radiator hose), fuel line to the engine and vent were a lot closer to the deck stringers. So the radiator hose was rubbing on the deck stringer from the outside and the gas was eating the hose from the inside. On August 15, 1982 they met.

As we made the swing to back into the dock. I did not hear the bang I felt the boat on my side go down under my feet. I looked down (I had shorts on that day) and saw fire shooting across the bottom of my shorts. I could not see my legs. Jumped back and landed next to the transom. Well what do I do jump into the water (not a good idea where we were) or look back forward to see what was going on. I looked forward. My father was running around the engine box to get to the fire extinguisher in the cabin. Out of the cabin with the extinguisher he put out the fuel fire from the radiator hose (fill hose) and then the fire from the burning engine ignition wires. We pulled the boat into the dock. Then I looked down and saw all the skin on both my legs around my ankles.

Shit, I need to get to the hospital now and not wanting to wait for the police to get there (this was a Sunday afternoon at the height of the tourist season) so they could call an ambulance (again this was a Sunday afternoon at the height of the tourist season) I got myself up on the dock and gave my truck keys to a friend I saw running down the dock and said drive me to the hospital. The hospital was about 8 miles away in the Village of Southampton and about 4 miles to the Village limits. Just inside the Village limits we saw a Village police car and flagged it down. The officers determined the situation and said follow them. From the way we entered the Village there are two main intersections between us and the hospital. Both intersections were blocked by police cars so we had a direct route to the hospital. One of the officers helped me into the ER and told the woman at the desk what she could do with the paper work she said she needed.

Now I am in the ER and they take one look at me and say we can’t help you here. We are transferring you to Stony Brook Hospital who has a burn unit. It takes four hours to get a private ambulance there and to transport me to Stony Brook Hospital.

When I get to the ER at Stony Brook Hospital I am told the burn unit is not certified and that they are a teaching hospital, so I was a training aid for the people in the yet to be certificated burn unit and the student doctors.

For the next month every six hours I was shoot up with beginning with Morphine down to Demerol. Placed on a chair in a shower stall and my burn areas were washed with soap and a stiff brush by the trainees. Then I was put back in bed and they would pick the dead skin off the burn areas for about half an hour.

At the time my insurance ran out at the end of the month so they sent me home with a two week perspiration for Tylenol #5 and enough stiff brushes for twice a day washings. Also I was given a perspiration for custom compression burn garments for both legs and arms and left hand that I used for seven months.

I sued my Father as owner of the boat (to get to his boat insurance) and Sisu Boat Inc,. In the summer of 1987 we settled. I got annuity from my father’s insurance company (paid off in February 2013) and the owner of SISU Boat cried poverty and that they could not pay anything. The judge as part of the settlement told SISU Boat they had to make six payments of $2500.00, the payments to be made every six months from the time the settlement was signed. My Father’s insurance company and the owner of Sisu Boat all agreed to and signed the settlement. The first $2500.00 payment came on schedule. However six months later no second check. I called my lawyer and found out that in the last six months he had moved to Florida. Also right after sending the first check Sisu Boat went out of business and quickly sold off all their assets. Yes, I had a lien on Sisu Boat that my lawyer was suppose to watch so this would not happen. But my lawyer was too busy moving to Florida.

Today I have scaring on both legs and arms. I am left handed with limited motion of the left thumb. Lessons learned: Be careful with the companies that build you anything and be damn careful with lawyers. The most important lesson was yes this happened to me but not to dwell on it and move on with my life.
 

WoundUpMarine

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Keelboater

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Frigate - as I mentioned in that earlier thread, I am glad to see you are still alive and boating after that tragic day. Gas can be dangerous for sure. I do have one question though. You said the fill hose was a friggin' radiator hose? Not a coast guard approved fill hose?
 

Bill

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Floyd. Thank you for sharing your story. I am positive more than one person will benefit from it, there are more than a few guys on here with gas engines and being that most of these boats are one off boats where no two boats are identical and therefore their fuel tanks,lines etc installations..we should all make sure that we are double and triple checking our installations and maintenance .
 

Toolate

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Very much appreciated post. Amazing story you have and I am happy that you made it out of that situation.

You are correct that it is up to us to cover our asses too.
 

Frigate

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Keelboater, yes when the hose was cut out of the side of the boat for replacement the markings on the hose were for radiator hose and not a coast guard approved fill hose.
 

Old Mud

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robbie

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Thanks for recounting the story to us Floyd I'm sure it wasn't easy to face those memories again.
I can't count the number of people who advised me against gas powered boats while I was searching for mine.

Glad you both came through the ordeal OK.
Robbie
 

Kodiakan

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Thanks for sharing. My hats off to you for moving on and not letting such an extreme event define you....Also, I'll never be skittish again on my non smoking rule on my boat. From now on its no exceptions............
 
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explosion

Frigate. For many years, I have been aware of the gas powered Sisu that exploded due to non approved fill hose. I am sorry that you were the victim. It proves that life altering events can happen when a builder chooses profit over safety.
 

nick5446

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This boat follows me everywhere! It's now parked on a mooring in Beverly, MA...the harbor where I keep mine. Saw it last night and it looked great, minus the massive dent on the port side.
 

Downrigga

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Frigate, God was with you that day. Thank goodness you and your dad survived what could have been even more tragic. Thank-you for sharing that story. I see people transferring gasoline often without the proper equipment. One 1/4 of a cup of gasoline has the explosion power of a stick of dynamite, just to let people know it needs to be handled properly. I'm curious as to why SISU's insurance company didn't settle this claim long before the company went out of business? I also wonder if other boats built by SISU have ever been checked for the same problem.
 

Frigate

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Frigate, God was with you that day. Thank goodness you and your dad survived what could have been even more tragic. Thank-you for sharing that story. I see people transferring gasoline often without the proper equipment. One 1/4 of a cup of gasoline has the explosion power of a stick of dynamite, just to let people know it needs to be handled properly. I'm curious as to why SISU's insurance company didn't settle this claim long before the company went out of business? I also wonder if other boats built by SISU have ever been checked for the same problem.

The owner of Sisu Boat said, " He did not have insurance because then everybody would be suing him for money." As South Shore Boatworks said above, it was known for a long time that a gas boat exploded due to non approved fill hose. I don't know if anyone checked other boats.
 
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