Police are treating a fire that destroyed three boats in Nelson Bay early on Wednesday morning as suspicious.
An investigation has been launched into the d’Albora Marina blaze which has left two commercial business boats sitting at the bottom of the bay.
The fire also damaged a further two boats that had been moored nearby.
Firefighters were called to the Nelson Bay marina about 2.30am on Wednesday.
Two commercial game fishing boats called the Ultimate and the Hammerhead, which were moored next to each other, were well alight when crews arrived at the scene. Both ended up sinking.
It took crews two hours to extinguish the blaze as toxic fumes from the firberglass boats filled the air.
“We were fortunate there was not a strong westerly wind,” Salamander Bay NSW Fire and Rescue captain Mal Smith said.
“We had to work with breathing apparatus because the fiberglass boats were creating toxic fumes.”
As six crews from Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service, including one RFS boat crew, worked to get the blaze under control one of the vessels broke away from the marina.
The RFS boat crew managed to push the burning boat away from other vessels, including Frank Future’s Imagine Cruises fleet, and it eventually sank.
“One of our boats was right next to one of the boats that burst into flames and ended up sinking,” Mr Future said. “We were lucky.”
A third boat – Port Stephens Parasailing – owned by Port Stephens Watersports was damaged beyond repair.
The business released this statement on its Facebook page on Wednesday morning:
“Unfortunately our Port Stephens Parasailing boat has been extensively damaged in this mornings fire at d’Albora Marina, Nelson Bay. We are deeply saddened by this event and as a result, we are unable to operate parasailing indefinitely.
“As police and fire have cordoned off the area, we are unable to gain access into our office and therefore cannot notify any of our customers.
“If you have a parasailing booking with Port Stephens Watersports, please be patient and we will be in with contact you as soon as it is possible. We will endeavour to provide updates via our social media channels.”
Mr Future received a call to get down to the marina about 4am. He described the scene as chaotic and said the damage to the marina, as well as the vessels, was a huge setback for the industry.
“The dock itself is a mess,” he said. “The public dock has damage, the commercial vessels, it is a nightmare for so many.”
Mr Future said the fire was not the only unusual activity at the marina overnight.
“The odd thing is there seems to be some break ins as well,” he said.
“Some of the boats have been broken into, the booking office door was broken and I know someone tried to get into one of the Moonshadow boats.”
A police forensic team arrived on the scene at Dock C of d'Albora Marinas after 9am to investigate the cause of the fire, believed to be suspicious.
The area from the entrance to Dock C has been declared a crime scene and it was expected the dock would remain closed for the remainder of the day. People boarding cruise and sightseeing tours are being diverted by tour operator staff.
Officers from Port Stephens-Hunter Police District and Marine Area Command were on site about 10.30am on Wednesday to manage the removal of debris from the water. Port Stephens Marine Rescue were also on site to assist with the clean up.
HAZMAT booms have been put in place around the sunken vessels to minimise pollution.
A spokeswoman for d'Albora Marinas released this statement about the fire:
“An incident occurred at d’Albora Marinas Nelson Bay in the early hours of this morning involving fire damage to several commercial vessels moored on the commercial arm (Arm C) of the marina.
“We are pleased to confirm that there are no reported injuries to any staff, customers or members of the public as a result of the fire.
“Local authorities have been on site and are conducting investigations into the incident.
“Arm C of the marina has limited access however the remainder of the marina is operating as usual. All other authorities associated with the marina and waterways have been notified of the incident.
“Any immediate enquiries should be directed to the police.”
Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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