The Atlantic Cat Ferry, operated by Key West Express, saw the smoke rising and were able to save Amy and Glen McIntyre and their dogs from the fire after they escaped by a small dingy.
“We’re watching as we got closer,” said Craid Howe, captain at Key West Express. “We could see them floating around with binoculars.”
Howe a captain with the cruise service for eight years, spotted the boat aflame on his way back from Key West with dozens of passengers on board.
“We didn’t even hear a radio,” said David Shin, another captain with Key West Express who was not on the cruise ship at the time of the rescue.
With a disabled radio, Amy and Glen were stranded with their two dogs 30 miles from Gordon Pass for hours.
“We just prayed and prayed and prayed,” Amy said.
Howe said years of bi-weekly training kicked in when they saw the situation.
“We’ve done the drills with coast guard every year,” Howe said. “We have to take them out and throw a dummy in. It’s almost the exact same thing but just a person instead of a dummy. So you just do what you’re trained to do.”
The crew managed to get the family off their lifeboat and onto the cruise ship safely.
“I don’t even think they got their feet wet,” Howe said.
The survivors of a fiery boat were immediate welcomed on board the ship by a crowd of friendly people.
“Even their two dogs that were on their with them came right on board,” Howe said. “I think every passenger probably fed those dogs a snack.”
The reason the fire started is not clear but the couple said they smelled smoke before the boat went up in flames. They also said there was an explosion and flames that reached at least 20 to 30 feet.
“When you hear it, you go and you help,” Shin said. “That’s what everyone does in this business.”