Father & son jump overboard as flames devour sailboat

Source: Kimiko Hosaki
Source: Kimiko Hosaki
Source: Kimiko Hosaki
Source: Kimiko Hosaki
Source: Janet Lee Davis Marlette
Source: Janet Lee Davis Marlette

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two men narrowly escaped their burning sailboat Thursday, jumping into the ocean as flames raced around them.

The father and son are nursing only minor injuries, thanks to the quick action of boaters in the area.

Thick, black smoke billowed from a boat a half-mile to a mile south of Oahu.  City lifeguards at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki scrambled to the scene.

"More black smoke and more black smoke and, you know, it just was unending," Dennis Santucci, witness, said.

Ronald Woodard and his son, Ronald Jr., left the Waikiki Yacht Club on their 62-foot sailboat "Keaoleleana," and had been sailing for more than an hour when the fire broke out below deck at about 1:30 PM.

The sport fishing vessel "Maggie Joe" was in the area.  The tourists on board got photos they never expected.

"There was nothing much we could do," Kimiko Hosaki, visitor from Toronto, said.  "You feel a little bit helpless sometimes when you're in that situation.  But all I could do was document it with my camera."

The Woodards jumped overboard and clung to a life raft.  The scuba diving tour boat "Snoopy V" reached them first.

"Chris pointed them out to me.  I jumped in, grabbed them," Marco Dickson, Snoopy V crewman, said.  "We got them back on the boat, took care of their minor wounds and relayed the information to the Coast Guard."

Father and son were grateful for the rescue efforts.

"How are you feeling?" this reporter asked.

"Very good, very lucky," Ronald Woodard, Sr., fire victim, said.

"What happened on board?" this reporter asked.

"Fire, just boom, really quick," the father replied.  "Within two minutes, we were totally engulfed."

The Woodards say the engine was in neutral while they were sailing.

From the time of the alarm, it took about half an hour to get the fire under control.  Fire officials say the challenge was shooting enough water to extinguish the flames without sinking the fiberglass vessel.

But at about 3 PM, the "Keaoleleana" sank 800 feet.

"I don't know why or how it started," the elder Woodard said.

The Woodards say the custom-made sailboat was insured for $500,000, but was worth three times that.

The US Coast Guard, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the Honolulu Fire Department are investigating.

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