14 injured when boat explodes at marina in Seneca, Illinois

Fourteen people were injured when a boat caught fire at a marina in Seneca, Illinois on Saturday, authorities said.

Witnesses described hearing an explosion around 4:30 p.m. at the Spring Brook Marina before seeing raging flames and heavy smoke coming from the boat.

Illinois State Police said there were 17 people on board – when a beautiful day on the water took a terrifying turn.

"We were at the pool, kids were swimming," said Stephanie Manzello.

Manzello, who is camping in the area, said she was startled by the sound of an explosion.

"We just heard a loud boom. And we looked around. It’s Memorial Day weekend, we thought maybe it was just fireworks," said Manzello. "About 30 seconds later, that’s when we saw gray smoke turn to black smoke."

Local and state agencies responded to help, including the Seneca Police Department, the Seneca Fire Department, the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office, and Illinois State Police.

"It was only a few minutes later we started hearing sirens," said Manzello.

Thirteen of the boat’s 17 passengers were injured. One of them was airlifted to a local hospital with serious injuries, while 12 others were transported to local hospitals with non-life threatening injuries.

One marina employee also suffered non-life threatening injuries and was taken to the hospital, bringing the total number of people injured to 14, according to ISP.

"We did see a helicopter, and we thought it might be the news. We saw the medevac on the side, and we hoped it wasn’t going to land and it did so we were fearful somebody had gotten hurt," said Manzello.

Witnesses nearby said at the time of the explosion, the boat – which the U.S. Coast Guard described as a 30-foot vessel – was at the marina’s fuel dock.

It’s still unclear what caused the explosion and sparked the fire.  

Conservation police with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are leading this investigation.

Seneca is a small town located about an hour southwest of Chicago in LaSalle and Grundy counties.