Condition of Sequim boater in blast improves

SEQUIM — The condition of a 78-year-old Sequim boater who was injured in a boat explosion last week has been upgraded to serious at a Seattle hospital.

Keith Bryant had been listed in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center, to where he was flown from Olympic Medical Center on Tuesday evening.

But a spokesperson for Harborview on Saturday said Bryant was in serious condition.

No other details, such as extent of injuries, were given.

Meanwhile, the cleanup in the aftermath of the powerful blast last Tuesday that scattered debris from Bryant’s cabin cruiser up to 75 yards around John Wayne Marina on Sequim Bay was completed Friday.

Joint effort

The combined effort involved a Port of Port Angeles crew that picked up smaller boat pieces for disposal, and Ballard Diving & Salvage of Seattle, which lifted the 38-foot wooden boat’s shattered hull and deck Thursday at the marina using a diver and crane barge towed in by a tugboat.

U.S. Coast Guard investigators were unavailable Friday to shed light on exactly what caused the explosion shortly after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, but port officials confirmed that Bryant was installing a propane tank at the time of the blast.

The state Department of Ecology is investigating the extent of damage caused by any of the 20 gallons of diesel fuel that was aboard the vessel at the time of the explosion.

“With the boat out of the water, we’re obviously not concerned about any more release of fuel,” Ecology spokesman Larry Altose said Friday.

He said “only a few drops” of diesel fuel were actually released before port and Clallam County Fire District No. 3 crews encircled the blast scene in the boat’s slip at the marina’s C Dock.

The fuel left a visible sheen around the marina, which is typical with such a small release.

“They will be checking of violation of the state pollution or spill law, which could bring a penalty,” Altose said.

The state’s costs in the spill, if any, would be assessed, which could fall on the boater.

“If the spill was determined to be large enough, then there is a natural resources damage assessment” impact study, Altose said, to determine a cost toward environmental restoration work.

Penalty

A typical penalty for a violation of the state’s spill law is $10,000, but if negligence is found, it can be as much as $100,000, he said, though such a high fine is unusual.

“I think we need to gather more of the facts as to what happened, what went wrong,” Altose said.

Such an investigation “will help the boating community to prevent such incidents from happening,” he said.

“The knowledge gained from each incident helps the shipping industry, the boating community and us to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

Reporter Tom Callis contributed to this report.

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