FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A fishing charter boat filled the skies with billowing smoke about a mile off the Florida coast.
The fiery blaze of the boat named New Latitude caught everyone by surprise.
Fortunately for the distressed boat crew, another nearby fishing charter Lady Pamela 2 also was out on the water with a family vacationing from Connecticut.
"We were just out fishing for a charter, and we heard fire," Kate Barriger, a tourist from Connecticut, explained.
"And I seen smoke coming out of the vents, and I seen the guys scurrying around," the Lady Pamela 2's Capt. Gene Checci recalled. "I looked down at my mate, and I said 'I think that boat's on fire.'"
There was smoke on the water, all right.
"By the time I picked up the outriggers to go get them, the boat was completely gone— and fire all the way up to the flybridge. And all the people were out on the bow, so I just went around and came up alongside the boat," Checci described. "It went from smoke to fire within three to four minutes. I'm telling you it was ridiculous."
One man rushing to get off the boat ablaze almost fell overboard.
"But he caught himself, thank God," Barriger said. "We were yelling, 'Did anybody call the Coast Guard?' And you know, the Coast Guard was coming on its way, and it just went. It engulfed in flames."
Amazingly, all six people aboard New Latitude were rescued without any injuries.
"They're happy, grateful. Lots of thank you's from 'em," Lady Pamela 2's first mate Sean Matthews reported.
"Oh my God, they wanted to kiss me, but I wouldn't let them," Checci said.
"Lady Pamela, we just had to help out and do our job. Not a bad day. We also caught fish," Matthews summed up.
But the catch of the day was definitely saving lives!