Investigation expected to begin today in boat fire at Myrtle Beach area marina

troot@thesunnews.com or akelley@thesunnews.comApril 11, 2013 

— Police and bomb experts are expected to return to the scene of a boat explosion and fire on Friday to investigate what caused the incident Thursday at Hague Marina on the Intracoastal Waterway, where four other boats have burned in recent months.

Horry County police Sgt. Robert Kegler said Friday morning that depending on the weather, investiagators will return to determine the cause.

The blaze in the Socastee was reported about 1:15 p.m. Thursday and involved one boat that was in dry storage and on fire, said Leslie Yancey, Horry County Fire Rescue spokeswoman. No injuries were reported and no other boats damaged.

Emergency crews reported the boat had exploded, so the Horry County bomb squad and agents with the State Law Enforcement Division’s bomb squad were called, Kegler said Thursday. Some SLED agents arrived via helicopter and car Thursday afternoon.

Rosemary Helmick, who lives on Watergate Drive at the corner of Hague Drive, said she was in her backyard and heard the explosion.

“It sounded like a train hit, just ‘whump,’” Helmick said. She couldn’t tell what the explosion was, just that it wasn’t too far away and behind her home at the marina.

Hague Marina is located at 3605 Hague Drive in the Socastee community near S.C. 707 and U.S. 17 Bypass.

The marina was evacuated when the boat exploded. Police blocked the scene at the intersection of Hague Drive and Watergate Drive while awaiting the bomb squad’s arrival, because authorities weren’t sure if a second explosion could occur.

The bomb squad deemed the scene safe by 5 p.m. Thursday, but the marina remained closed as an active crime scene, Kegler said.

With thunderstorms forecasted to roll in Thursday evening, Kegler said the scene would be held by Horry County police overnight.

Together with SLED, Horry County police would begin processing the crime scene on Friday after the weather clears up, Kegler said Friday.

He explained officers can’t stop processing a scene once they’ve started, so the expected weather would hinder the investigation.

Crews responded twice to Hague Marina in the last five months for similar incidents, according to police.

Kegler said that about three weeks ago there was a small explosion where a boat fire was battled. In December, three boats in dry storage were destroyed by a fire that appeared to have been started intentionally as a way to get rid of old, abandoned boats, police said.

Kegler said there was no information Thursday to connect the three incidents, but he said that would be part of the police investigation. Additionally, the other two boat fires remain under investigation.

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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