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Jackson County Sheriff's Office says quick response time saved lives in Scottsboro boat dock fire

The sheriff's office says they don't believe the death toll, which currently stands at eight, will rise.

Posted: Jan 27, 2020 9:50 PM
Updated: Jan 27, 2020 10:48 PM

On Monday night, the Southern Marine Towing and Salvage group pulled a fifth boat from the Jackson County Park in Scottsboro before calling it a day.

That leaves 30 more boats to remove from the water after a deadly morning fire on the dock led to the deaths of eight people.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office says that death toll could have been higher if not for the fast response time.

The Southern Marine Towing and Salvage team, led by Shane O'Neal, expects to spend the entire week at the Jackson County Park, removing boats and preventing any environmental damage. O'Neal tells WAAY31 his team has been to deadly scenes before. 

"I'm a retired fireman, and rest of my crew, about 90 percent are either firefighters or EMT's so they've seen this type of environment," O'Neal said.

His team is focused on making sure debris and chemicals from these boats don't spread.

"When these boats burn, the fiberglass releases a chemical that makes it real hot, if it gets into the ground and makes that area hot, it's a real big mess to clean up," O'Neal said.

He says things like batteries, sewage, and of course, oil and gas are all in the water, but currently contained. Firefighters were called to the scene about 12:40 a.m. Monday. They found the boat dock engulfed in flames.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office tells WAAY31 Scottsboro Police were responding to a nearby business, and the owner is a rescue squad member.

"They were checking the business for a burglary when the call went out, they were able to get to the rescue squad building, load a boat up, and get to the scene within 10 minutes which is very impressive," Rocky Harnan said.

The sheriff's office says that quick response helped save the lives of seven people. Harnan says they don't believe the death toll, which currently stands at eight, will rise.

"We'll double check to make sure that there's no other victims, we don't believe there are, but we will certainly take precautions to check for other victims," Harnan said.

The cause of the fire is still the major question, for now, without an answer. O'Neal expects to have "80 percent" of the boats removed from the water by Friday. 

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