The boat's operator and only passenger managed to jump off and swim to shore, and no one was injured, according to Captain Garry Clark of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
The operator, whose name Clark did not have permission to disclose, told Officer Daniel Richardson of the KDFW that he filled his 1999, 23-foot vessel with fuel earlier that morning. He was not wearing a floatation device when he launched from the ramp at Eddy Creek Marina, Richardson reported.
The boater told Richardson that when he turned the boat's blowers on, everything seemed to be operating as normal. But when he started the motor, the rear hatch of the engine blew into the water and the boat caught on fire. Upon Richardson's arrival, the boat had burned to the waterline and was totaled. Fire crews extinguished what was left of the vessel, Clark said.
Ginny Harbison, one of the owners of Eddy Creek, witnessed the incident.
"He was obviously shaken," she said of the boater. "I think our staff did a really good job of containing the situation and keeping things on an even keel, so no one else was injured."
She said Lyon County Search and Rescue and the Lyon County Sheriff's Department responded to the scene. Neither agency could be reached for comment.
WPSD-TV reported that investigators still do not know what caused the fire.
Clark said incidents such as the one on Saturday happen at least once a year on the region's waterways.
"Most fires on boats are due to ignition of fuel vapors," Clark said. "Blowers need to run a minimum of two to three minutes, which sucks out all the fumes."
He added that boaters and occupants need to wear life vests regardless of whether they can swim.
He suggested first-time boaters pick up the agency's Fishing and Boating Guide, which is available wherever fishing and hunting licenses are sold.