‘It blew me out of the boat 20 feet in the creek’: Poquoson man burned in boat explosion


POQUOSON, Va. (WAVY) — A Poquoson man is talking about being burned after his boat exploded on Bennett Road Wednesday morning. 

Fred Graef had been having issues with the boat, so he was working on his boat engine, and there was a backfire in the carburetor which ignited gas fumes. 

“My hand was on fire,” says Graef. “I had it ready to start up, so I went to crank it up and boom! It blew me out of the boat 20 feet in the creek. It wasn’t exactly a fun experience.

“It was huge. It was like a shotgun shot next to you. It was humongous … I was out in my yard. I heard a big bam and I turned around, saw a boat on fire with big plumes of black smoke,” says Beverly Phillips, who claims to be the first to call 911. 

She took lots of pictures. “I did see someone in the water moving the boat away from the dock.” 

That would be Fred, who even after the stunning explosion had presence of mind to keep moving. “I swam back to shore. I untied the boat from the pier, shoved it out and away from the dock. I wanted to make sure I didn’t catch anything else on fire.”

Graef now has several second-degree burns. “It’s burned up to here on my arm. I do have some on my face, but it will heal. It could be worse, I could be dead.” Graef had second degree burns on his buttocks, four fingers, hand, wrist, and forearm. 

He’s thankful he’s alive, figuring out how he will get the boat out of its watery grave.

Editor’s note: Moments after the story aired, a local marine contractor contacted 10 On Your Side saying they’ll be able to help recover the boat.

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