COCONUT GROVE, FLA. (WSVN) – – A son jumped into the water to save his unconscious father after the boat he was working on exploded and caught fire, throwing him overboard in Coconut Grove.
City of Miami and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue crews responded to the area off Dinner Key Marina, Thursday morning.
According to officials, Burt Kopela and Hans Kopela, Burt’s son, were working on the 34-foot boat when the explosion happened.
“I was unconscious. It blew me up,” Burt said. “Only thing I remember is turning the key to try to start the motor the second time, and it exploded.”
“I’m still going over it in my head what happened and how it happened and why it happened,” Burt added. “I don’t even know yet. The accident happened. I’m very fortunate to be here. Luckily, my son was close enough to come by and pick me up and grab me out of the water. I’m in shock, you know? I’m alive. I got blown up. I’m alive.”
Burt said his son was nearby on a separate vessel and raced to his rescue.
“Him grabbing me and screaming, ‘Dad! Dad! Dad!’ And grabbing me and pulling me up,” Burt said. “When I got up, I just rolled over in the water still, and he helped me into the boat. I was crying and screaming, in shock, and then, I saw the boat burning, and I saw my other boat next to it, so I wanted to cut that one free, so it didn’t catch on fire and have another problem, so I did. Then, I managed to drive myself to the ramp to meet fire rescue, and they picked me up.”
“All I remember is blowing up and him falling into the water and the life jacket expanding, and then, he went unconscious because debris fell on him,” Hans said.
Burt was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center with minor burns and scrapes, but he is expected to be OK. He spoke to reporters after he was discharged from the hospital, Thursday afternoon.
Hans was not hurt in the explosion and was driven to the hospital. He gave an update on his father’s condition before he was released.
“He got blew up, and he survived,” Hans said. “Nothing, nothing at all. He has a little knot on his head from something falling on him. He has a little burn mark in between his legs ’cause he was sitting on top of the motor. He was on his feet trying to fix it, and he got really blown up. The doctors said, ‘He’s the most great-looking guy I’ve seen from a blow up.’”
The cause of the explosion is not yet known.
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