The Bend family onboard the boat swam to shore and escaped the blaze unharmed

Two Prineville Reservoir boaters had to jump from their vessel and swim to shore to escape a boat fire unharmed on Sunday afternoon.

At about 1:30 p.m., deputies from the Crook County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the reservoir near the Powder House Cove boat launch on a report of a boat on fire.

Upon arrival, responding deputies found a green 1972 Caravelle boat fully engulfed approximately 30 yards from the shoreline. A subsequent investigation revealed that the operator of the boat, 40-year-old Anthony Howden, of Bend, attempted to start the inboard motor when the engine compartment caught fire.

“Based on what I was told by the Marine (Patrol) guys, when you have an issue like that, you either have a fuel leak inside the engine compartment or you have fuel vapors that have not been properly vented,” said Crook County Undersheriff John Gautney. “You get gas vapors that build up inside those engine compartments, and it can cause an explosion, not just a fire.”

Howden told deputies he attempted to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher, but the fire extinguisher failed to function. At that point, he told his family to abandon the boat. The family swam a short distance to shore, and were not injured. The boat eventually drifted close to the shoreline, however sank after approximately one hour after the fire started.

None of the passengers aboard were wearing their lifejackets when they abandoned the boat, because they were not accessible. The Crook County Sheriff’s Office urges boaters to ensure their boats are properly equipped and safety equipment is readily accessible prior to your outing.

“That a requirement that not only do you have them, but they have to be accessible,” Gautney said. “That’s a huge issue and I know that around the state, there have been drownings because of that.”

In Crook County, boat fires like the one Sunday do not happen very frequently. However, the few times such an incident has occurred, those people involved also escaped unharmed.

“We have never had anybody that I know of who have been injured from them,” Gautney said.

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