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Boat owners tell story of fire disaster

  • Sharing the pain: Jesse Moniz and Thom Strange, owners of the boats that caught fire  (Photograph by Sekou Hendrickson)
  • In action: Firefighters tackle the blaze on two boats in Dockyard last Sunday (Photograph supplied).

A stunned charter boat owner said a fire that destroyed two boats in Dockyard had wrecked his business and cost him his home.

Jesse Moniz, 24, said he had lived on board the Aurelia as well as operating the vessel as a charter and Airbnb vacation home.

He added: “When you lose an asset like that, it’s not as simple as going down the road and buying a new one.

“It cost me my home, my business — everything.”

He was speaking after the Sunday fire, which started on the neighbouring boat Wine Down and spread to his vessel.

Both boats sank in the Dockyard marina, despite a desperate battle by firefighters.

Mr Moniz was speaking yesterday, as a team from Crisson’s Construction salvaged the remains of Wine Down.

He explained that he was visiting his mother in Somerset when he was alerted to the fire on social media.

Mr Moniz said: “I saw a picture of it in a group chat I’m a part of.

“I knew that it was a fire in the marina, but I didn’t at that time know it was my boat, so I came flying up the road and got to the bridge.

“That’s when I saw it was mine.”

The Bermuda Fire & Rescue Services fought the inferno while other boat owners helped staff from nearby Spar Yard to move boats close to the blaze to safety.

Thom Strange, 49, who lived on Wine Down, said that he was onboard watching television when he smelled smoke.

He added: “It didn’t smell electrical or any burning plastic or anything; it smelled like a barbecue, so I ignored it.

“I kept watching football, was texting my friend about the score and then the smoke was getting stronger, so I got up out of bed.

“I walked up the stairs to the main area and my entire deck was covered in smoke.”

Mr Strange also said: “I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe.

“I got off the boat, gasped for some air and went back on the boat to see if I could find a flashlight or a fire extinguisher.

“But within three seconds it was painful to be in there, so I got off the boat.”

Mr Strange said that he alerted neighbours to the blaze and attempted to move other vessels out of the danger zone.

He added that he felt sick as he watched Wine Down, and later Aurelia, sink into the marina.

Mr Strange said: “I had no words — I was in shock. I hugged Jessie afterwards. I felt horrible.”

Mr Strange said that he planned to fly back to his home state of Maine to buy supplies and “try to get back to some normalcy”.

He added that he was staying with his girlfriend, another resident of the marina, as he looked for another home.

Mr Strange said: “I’ve had so many people in Bermuda, from close friends to strangers, coming up to me and just hugging me and offering me a place to stay.

“I went from the worst night of my life to the next day where I was just overwhelmed by kindness and love from everyone.”

He added: “Bermuda is resilient and I’ve been fortunate enough to call this place home for almost 20 years now.

“I’m glad I got off. If I was there another ten minutes or if I was sleeping, I wouldn’t be here telling this story.”

Mr Moniz said that the boat blaze highlighted changes that needed to be made by emergency response teams.

He explained: “You should be able to get a fire truck anywhere there’s a residence; you should be able to have easy access to a fire truck and not have to go through hurdles in order to get it there.

“There should be hydrant systems or proper pump systems in order to help with these types of things.”

Mr Moniz said that he learnt after the fire that fire crews had to be dispatched from Hamilton instead of the closer Port Royal Fire Station in Southampton.

He added: “We’re an island — we should have marine assets as far as a boat with a pump system in order to mitigate damage.

“Best case, from Hamilton to here in a fire truck you’re looking at a half-hour, unless you’re going to fly it across the sound.”