Trapped fuel could pose environmental threat after fire destroys $20M yachts

Investigators are working to prevent 2,500 gallons of fuel from two burned Florida superyachts from leaking into waters


By Eileen Kelley
Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Investigators continue to monitor the fuel tanks of two superyachts that were destroyed in the city’s largest and costliest fire to make sure their 2,500 gallons of fuel do not spread into waterways.

The Reflections and the Lohengrin — worth $20 million jointly — were under renovation at Universal Marine Center off State Road 84 when the fire struck about 4:30 a.m. Saturday. Flames rose some 12 stories and blanketed the area in smoke.

Broward County firefighters spent about four hours early on Saturday battling fires aboard two luxury yachts that caused nearly $20 million in damage. (Photo/Handout, TNS)
Broward County firefighters spent about four hours early on Saturday battling fires aboard two luxury yachts that caused nearly $20 million in damage. (Photo/Handout, TNS)

The yachts now lie in the shallow waters of the New River, which connects to the Everglades as well as the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean.

“Our biggest concern is obviously the environmental impact, so we are doing everything we can to control and contain,” Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Stephen Gollan said Monday.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been on the scene. To date the tanks of the Lohengrin — 1,000 gallons of fuel — and Reflections — 1,500 gallons of fuel — have not breached, Gollan said. In the event there is a leak, booms have been put in place to minimize the environmental effect.

Gollan said investigators hope to board the vessels possibly Tuesday to search for clues about the fire’s cause. In the meantime, investigators are going through multiple surveillance videos and cannot say if the circumstances surrounding the fire are suspicious.

“We’re still reviewing surveillance footage,” Gollan said. “It’s taking time to go through all of it.”

At least 100 firefighters were called to battle the massive blaze. Efforts to knock down the fire were hampered by renovation scaffoldings that blocked firefighters from boarding the yachts. The fire was brought under control in about four hours, though it continued to smolder Sunday.

The fire started on the 161-foot Lohengrin and hopscotched onto the 107-foot Reflections.

The Lohengrin was delivered in 2006 by Trinity Yachts. According to Boat International, in 2009 it was listed for sale at $29.5 million, a $3.4 million reduction. Boat International said it was back on the market in 2015 with a list price of $19.6 million. It sold in January for an undisclosed price. Boat International said it had been listed for sale by Burgess Asia and the buyer had been introduced at International Yacht Corp. Monaco.

Efforts to track down the owner have been unsuccessful. Gollan said he believed the owner was from another country and that the owner had multiple yachts.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel was able to track down the owner of Reflections. Chip McElroy said he sailed the yacht just two weeks earlier and it was at the marina for annual repainting. McElroy said he anticipated being a week away from shipping out. He said the four crew members who live on the yacht had been staying at an Airbnb over the weekend while the yacht underwent its final repainting.

“We are grateful they were not on board,” McElroy said Sunday.

Fire officials said a crew was on the Lohengrin on Friday evening, but they were not there at the time of the fire.

(Sun-Sentinel staff writer Cindy Krischer Goodman contributed to this report.)

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©2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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