[UPDATE IN EXTENDED ARTICLE]
A large boat exploded off the coast of Sandy Hook early this evening, causing several serious burn injuries and nearly two dozen passengers to abandon ship, according to the United States Coast Guard and TV reports.
The explosion occurred at around 4:20 p.m. about 17 miles out to sea, causing 21 people to jump ship. Some aboard escaped on lifeboats, the Coast Guard said.
Nine are injured, according to Gateway National Recreation Area spokesman John Warren. The Coast Guard asked the Gateway National Recreation Area help arrange transportation for the injured, Warren said.
The extent of the injuries has not been confirmed, but WABC-TV in New York has reported nine serious burn injuries.
The Coast Guard said the initial emergency call they received said the boat, a yacht named the Blind Date, exploded and sank in the Atlantic Ocean.
Two Coast Guard helicopters, three 47-foot motor life boats, three New York Police Department helicopters and a Nassau County helicopter are responding to the scene. Two good Samaritan boats in the area of the accident are also assisting, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
UPDATE 7:35PM: The N.J. State Police have two medevac helicopters docked in the area waiting to assist in the rescue effort, according to Sgt. Brian Polite, a spokesman for the agency.
While they have yet to reach the wreck, the State Police have also deployed a 50-foot long boat and two other vessels to the reported site of the explosion, Polite said.
As of 6:15 p.m., State Police has not reached the area of the explosion.
A large staging has been set up on a fenced-off field at the Fort Hancock area of Sandy Hook. Six helicopters and numerous emergency vehicles, including trucks, SUVs and firetrucks are at the staging area, waiting for the victims to arrive. Vehicles were from as far away as North Brunswick.
As of around 6:50 p.m. three of the helicopters took off from the staging area, appearing to be headed inland without any of the passengers.
Of the 10 ambulances on the scene, seven were seen leaving the area. Several ambulance drivers said they had been released. Fire engines were also leaving, creating a caravan of emergency vehicles snaking away from Sandy Hook.
Max Ross, an emergency medical technician from Rumson said all rescue crews that had gathered at the staging area were released as of around 7:15 p.m. except for crews from Sea Bright and Highlands.
“At this time (the report of an explosion) is unfounded.” Ross said. “They’re still treating it as if its’ real, but they haven’t found anything.”
At Bahr’s restaurant in Highlands, hostess Alyse Storzieri said she saw “flashing lights” and at least two ambulances heading toward the ocean.
“I saw one ambulance drive down along the beach and another ambulance just pulled up.” Storzieri said it was at a booth near the entrance to Sandy Hook.
(Source: NJ Star Ledger)