‘The whole boat was engulfed in 15 seconds’: Passersby save boaters after fire in Smith Mountain Lake

SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE, Va. – A boat caught fire in Smith Mountain Lake on Wednesday, but the quick thinking of two passing boaters helped the people on the burning boat survive.

“You just saw people jumping off of the boat,” said Jim Hogle. “The boat was engulfed in flames, front to back, in about 15 to 20 seconds.”

“We heard this big explosion,” added Lynne Fye. “We turned to the right and we saw the boat and some smoke.”

Hogle and Fye both saw the boat catch fire near the Halesford Bridge. Both approached the burning boat to save the people who leapt off of it.

“You’re a human being,” Hogle said. “You want to help people, and it was our instinct to do that since we were there.”

“There wasn’t a second thought,” Fye said. “We were there and we were going to help out no matter what.”

Four people were on the boat when it erupted in flames. Hogle took three of them on his boat, and Fye welcomed the last person aboard her boat.

All four escaped the situation with no injuries.

Both believe life jackets helped the four people stay safe more than they could.

“Don’t store your life jackets under your boat seats. Don’t store them in compartments,” Hogle said. “They only had 15 seconds.”

“Anything can happen at any time. Just be safe out there so we can make this a great community,” Fye said. “It was a scary moment, and we’re just very fortunate that everyone is safe.”

The Franklin County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are still investigating the cause of the fire.

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