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Thread: Burning Man, Not so positive results

  1. #1
    aktango58's Avatar
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    Burning Man, Not so positive results

    Hi All,

    Been a while, so for those questioning, I am still alive, and back on my feet.

    During Moose season I had the experience of being ground zero for a fuel fume explosion. Was taken on a direct flight from Haines to Seattle and the burn unit. Looking like there will be no lasting effects or scaring. I will limit my descriptions of the body damage, but I will say that they had 20 CC's of morphine in me to kill the pain; I strongly suggest others avoid the experience.

    There have been quite a few discussions about fuel fumes and sparks, explosions, and how to/not to. I only offer my case study to others in hope that my experience stays unique.

    It was moose season. Cold and calm. A group of six adults, three kids, one dog and many bundles of equipment were being loaded into two boats to go upriver to our cabins. I had most of the gear in my boat, an open 21 foot wooldridge with a 150 etec outboard and plywood floorboards. I have a 90 gallon tank in the back of the truck, and pumped the shore side tank full, spilling a bit out of the breather and filler neck before I got it shut off. My fuel vents were built to vent inside the hull of the skiff.

    I was not allowing folks in the boat while fueling, even though it was an open skiff.

    I changed the fuel hose to the far side tank, again spilling a bit as I inserted started fueling. Because I had a bit of fuel on the floor boards, and on top of the fuel tank, (aluminum), I grabbed a bucket and washed it back to the stern to try and keep the gear clean when it got shifted aft for the trip up river.

    After washing the fuel back I had a build up of water with a bit of fuel sitting in the back. Knowing it would run forward as I went on step I wanted it out of the boat; I stood behind the steering station that is well aft, and turned on the bilge pump.

    I saw the spark, knew I had made a dumb mistake, and most likely swore. The spark was not anywhere near the fuel/water. It was 8 inches off the floor, in the dry. Only fumes could have ignited. By swearing I was pushing air out of my lungs and windpipe, preventing any internal damage.

    After the initial explosion I realized that I was surrounded by and on fire while still pumping fuel. Both tanks had fire on and around them. Helpless is the feeling. I did turn off the fuel pump, removed the hose from the tank and got it onto the beach before reaching for a fire extinguisher. The first one was dead. The second lasted maybe 10 seconds, and helped, but did not stop all of the fire.

    We did have fortune that I was the only injury, and very little gear was damaged. The floorboards were actually lifted and gear tossed around, ending up overlapped. All the screws holding the steering station and tanks down were pushed out of the floor. Very little wiring was damaged, and the outboard mechanical is still pristine with only cosmetic damage.

    I am giving detail to explain how little "fire" was actually present. It was a flash of explosion, burning my hands and face, and igniting my jacket. Had I not spilled any fuel I don't believe the outboard would have been damaged at all.

    But the flash/explosion did damage. Stuff flew, I had second and third degree burns over 5% of my body. My cotton tee shirt prevented my chest and upper arms from being burned, I believe my hat, which was blown off, protected part of my head.

    How many times do folks pump fuel into an open boat, and not recognize that the fumes can collect and be dangerous inside their boat.

    Also, I am now a believer in LARGE fire extinguishers. The little one in your plane will last a few seconds, at least give time for a real one to show up, maybe?

    Experience is a teacher. I am thankful I still live to learn.

    Some might wish to tell me all of my mistakes on here. I understand. I made some. But please realize I have picked this apart more than you know. The lessons and changes in my boating will be: New tank vents outside the boat, larger fire extinguisher in boat and on truck tank, silicone sealed wiring in good shape for all wires below the gunnel, a battery kill switch will be in the off position for times I am pumping fuel, and not turned on until a sniff test is performed for vapors, truck fuel tank will NEVER be attached to the boat battery, No fueling with passengers (already a policy), notify folks with me where fire extinguishers are located.

    By posting this I am hoping the results will be higher safety in all of our operations. My experience can be related to many aircraft experiences. Please take care.

    George
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!

  2. #2
    scout88305's Avatar
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    Thanks for the narrative, glad you are ok.
    Thank a sheepdog today for they are standing guard!

  3. #3
    SteveE's Avatar
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    HOLY SMOKE Tangle,,, I've been wondering about you and your whereabouts. Glad you are doing good....

  4. #4
    this would be a title NimpoCub's Avatar
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    Sure glad it wasn't worse, George! Hope ya get healed up soon & get your gear fixed up. GoodThing that you weren't wearing that kilt.
    Nimpo Lake Logan... boonie SuperCubber
    200mi (300km) from nearest stoplight... just right! - "Que hesitatus fornicatus est"

  5. #5
    8GCBC's Avatar
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    Thank you for being upfront. Glad you are OK man.

  6. #6
    Roger Peterson's Avatar
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    We have all spilled some gas when filling the boat. Thanks for giving us a heads up so more of us don't have to go through what you did.
    Thanks for the post and good luck.

  7. #7

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    George,

    So very glad it was not worse, as it could easily have been. Get yourself healed up and come South for a visit.

    Kirby
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

  8. #8
    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    George

    Thank you for sharing so we can learn. Very sorry to hear about it but glad you will be OK. I hope the healing is quick and painless. If you need to rest you are welcome here.

    Best of luck my friend.

    Bill
    Very Blessed.

  9. #9

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    t-shirt?

    George:
    I am glad you are OK. Did you ruin the New Holstien t-shirt I sent you?

    I saw this happen at Bell Island years ago. The fumes collected in the cabin and blew it clear off. I flew two burn victims to Ketchican. They looked bad, but all the burned skin sluffed off and you couldn't tell in two weeks.

    Again close call. Hope to see you in Anchorage in the spring. I may drive up. If I do i'll stop and see you.

    Mike
    Light Hauler

  10. #10
    Anne's Avatar
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    So glad you weren't hurt worse than you were, and you're able to join us again!

    Anne.
    Baloney is still baloney, no matter how thin you slice it.

  11. #11
    mvivion's Avatar
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    A boss of mine once upon a time was a heavy smoker, and he owned a motor home......turned out the motor home had a propane leak. One morning, he woke up, rolled out of the sack and lit up......blowing up the motor home, blowing his black lab Blazo out the door, and seriously burning himself.

    he joked later that he gave up smoking with a bang, but burns are no joking matter. I've visited thermal units to see two different friends, and serious burns are an experience nobody needs.

    congratulations on the burns not being worse, skin grafts are not fun, I've been told, and here's to a quick recovery.

    MTV

  12. #12
    fobjob's Avatar
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    Have an acquaintance who went flying with a low time pilot in a C-150 looking for a lost R/C model, who hit a static wire above a power substation, and fell through the wires (igniting the fuel) into the sub. A worker in the sub (lucky!!) tried to pull him out of the flaming wreck, and succeeded when his seat belt burned through. Pilot didn't make it. His burns were extensive, and for a few months, we didn't think he was going to pull through. His injuries today still make me cringe when I think about it......
    Went out to the cub one day to take a friend for a ride, and found it in the middle of a large pool of avgas. A trim screw had vibrated through the aluminum fuel line from the right tank...a sharp-pointed screw, rather than a PK screw. Replaced all of the trim screws with short PK screws as needed....moved the offending screw position, as well....

  13. #13
    nanook's Avatar
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    Thanks for the honest narrative aktango...So I take it was the battery switch that sparked the blast? Scary stuff dealing with fuel vapors...I've lost track of the number of times I've experienced fuel leaks/vapors in an enclosed aircraft. There you are flying along with all those switches that can ignite vapors...makes you think about how fortunate you are to still be here...

  14. #14
    Ruffair's Avatar
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    George, Glad it wasn't any worse. Good luck with the recovery..!
    "...We're fast enough to get there, But slow enough to see..."
    Fron the song "Barometer Soup". By Jimmy Buffett

  15. #15
    8GCBC's Avatar
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    A neighbor, of mine, committed suicide at Keehi Lagoon State Harbour in a boat slip. He filled the bilge up with gas and fired a flare gun into it. I was about 80' feet away and down below in my little fiberglass Catalina 30. It occurred late at night and the explosion was cataclysmic. The entire sky turned to day for about 3 seconds. Fire/Police arrived and took him to the hospital and he died in about 48 hours.

    The next day people who knew the guy (personally) said he broke up with his wife and couldn't deal with it.
    2018 R44
    IA/A&P, ATP, SES, CFII, MEI, Rotor PPL (2500 TT)
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  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by 8GCBC View Post
    A neighbor, of mine, committed suicide at Keehi Lagoon State Harbour in a boat slip. He filled the bilge up with gas and fired a flare gun into it. I was about 80' feet away and down below in my little fiberglass Catalina 30. It occurred late at night and the explosion was cataclysmic. The entire sky turned to day for about 3 seconds. Fire/Police arrived and took him to the hospital and he died in about 48 hours.

    The next day people who knew the guy (personally) said he broke up with his wife and couldn't deal with it.
    Well that was uplifting
    Remember, These are the Good old Days!

  17. #17
    Iflylower's Avatar
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    Goerge, I'm glad you'll be ok and happy it wasn't worse. Thanks for sharing. I hope we'll see more from you again now. Bummer too about moose season.
    "There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire and a Zamboni clearing the ice." Charlie Brown

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  18. #18
    DW's Avatar
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    Wow George close one glad your going to be ok.

  19. #19
    cafi19's Avatar
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    Dear God George! Sorry you had to go through all that but thankful you are here to share the experience. Hopefully it will help others avoid the same situation!

    Take care!!!

    Laura

  20. #20
    gbflyer's Avatar
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    Damn, glad you're OK.

  21. #21

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    A larger extinguisher and more vigilance being installed now on the fuel trailer. Thanks for the reminder and glad you are OK.

  22. #22
    spinner2's Avatar
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    What a story George. We wondered why we hadn't been hearing from you for a while. Glad you're going to be OK.
    "Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything." Wyatt Earp

  23. #23

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    Thanks for the story; More than likely, you will have saved, who knows how many of us, from compounding errors, until we sponsor a similar event. Makes me think twice or five times next fueling. Again; most appreciated.

  24. #24
    Lance's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about that George. I hope you back to 100% soon

  25. #25
    aktango58's Avatar
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    Been trying to rest up. Sort of pushed my fatigue a bit a bit ago...

    Thank you guys for reading the story the way it was intended; I hope that my lack of vigilance can educate and help others.

    Just to note for those that know me, it has been said that the facial burns did not help my appearance as some had hoped. Most can not see the scars, so I am just as ugly as I was!!!
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!

  26. #26
    this would be a title NimpoCub's Avatar
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    Sounds like your spirit has healed up,
    Now ... just the meat.
    Nimpo Lake Logan... boonie SuperCubber
    200mi (300km) from nearest stoplight... just right! - "Que hesitatus fornicatus est"

  27. #27
    gregory's Avatar
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    Dang, how many times have I bailed gas/water out of my boat and flipped on the bilge never giving it a second though.. Never again.. Thank you for the grim reminder that its not just our airplanes we need to be careful when re-fueling. Glad your doing better and hope your recovery is speedy.

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