Investigators are focusing on one boat as the possible cause of a fire that killed eight people and destroyed 35 boats at Jackson County Park Marina in Scottsboro, Ala. About two dozen people lived aboard houseboats at the marina.
County officials said four of the eight people who died were children but declined to release names, according to the Associated Press. The children were 7, 9, 10 and 16 years old. The coroner has not released the causes of death.
Julie Jackson, who lives aboard on a different dock at the marina, told the news service she will always remember people crying for help. “I don’t ever want to see anything like that again in my life,” she said.
David Kennamer, who runs the marina shop, called the deaths a tragedy. “The rich folks would be in a bigger, nicer houseboat somewhere else. These were just average people like me and you that love boating, staying on the water,” he said. “They love the boating life.”
Thousands of feet of floating barriers were placed around the fire scene to contain environmental damage. There appear to have been minimal pollution or oil spills into the Tennessee River, Fire Chief Gene Necklaus told the service. Necklaus said that if the boat under investigation did not cause the blaze, they would look for other possible causes.
Five boats have been removed, but about 30 boats remain under water.
A Red Cross representative said about 25 people were believed to have lived aboard boats at the dock full time when the fire happened.
“If this had happened in July it would have been so much more tragic,” Kennamer said.