The article titled “Deadly Yacht Fire Believed To Be Caused by Lithium-Ion Batteries” by Kevin Maher, published on August 16, 2023, reports on a tragic incident involving a deadly yacht fire and its suspected cause.
On July 26, a fatal yacht fire occurred on a 70-foot Viking yacht at a marina in the Florida Keys. The fire resulted in the death of 51-year-old Linda Vella from St. Petersburg, Florida, and caused critical injuries to her husband, Michael Kenneth Robson, 58, and son, Anthony Joseph Vella, 21.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay, who led the investigation, has stated that the fire is believed to have been caused by lithium-ion batteries. Specifically, the fire is suspected to have originated from an e-bike’s battery. The e-bike and its battery had fallen into the water earlier in the day, and upon retrieval, the battery was removed and placed on a wooden cabinet within the yacht. This cabinet also contained USCG-mandated safety flares, which were ignited after the wooden cabinet caught fire due to the battery’s presence.
Lithium-ion batteries have become a concerning factor in yacht safety due to the manner in which they can combust. The process, known as thermal runaway, involves the batteries burning in a self-sustaining manner. Furthermore, exposure to saltwater can trigger chemical reactions in these batteries, further elevating the risk of fire.
The incident has brought attention to the increasing number of yacht fires related to lithium-ion batteries. This concern has led the United Kingdom’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to release new guidelines regarding fire safety and storage of small electric-powered crafts on yachts. Industry stakeholders, including regulators, insurers, and manufacturers, are engaging in discussions and seminars to develop solutions to mitigate the risks associated with lithium-ion battery-related fires.
In conclusion, the tragic yacht fire that claimed a life and caused injuries is believed to have been caused by a lithium-ion battery, specifically from an e-bike. This incident has highlighted the growing concern over such fires on yachts and has spurred discussions and actions within the maritime industry to enhance safety measures and address this issue.