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Spark, vapors blamed in boat blast


The explosion that blew apart a 1955 cabin cruiser on the Chesapeake Bay and injured three passengers Saturday afternoon probably was caused by a spark and unventilated gas vapors, investigators said yesterday.

"There was no burnt wood, like a fire. It's like an explosion." said Cpl. Quincy Shockley of the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

Corporal Shockley, who is investigating the incident, said it is possible that the spark came from the engine but that it is too soon to know for sure.

Corporal Shockley said passengers have told investigators that only one engine on the twin-engine wooden boat was operating at the time of the explosion, suggesting that there might have been engine trouble.

Corporal Shockley said his next step is to interview the passengers, although none has returned his phone calls.

Domenic F. Antonelli Jr., 73, who suffered the most serious injuries, was still hospitalized yesterday at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where his condition had been upgraded from serious to fair.

Mr. Antonelli, who was misidentified yesterday by Natural Resources Police, is a parking businessman from Washington, D.C. His ankles were broken, and he received second- and third-degree burns on his arms and face when the engine compartment on which he was resting his legs collapsed in the explosion, said Darryl Claggett, spokesman for the Natural Resources Police.

Two other passengers received minor cuts and burns and were treated at the scene. They were swimming at the time of the explosion.

A third passenger was not injured.

The explosion blew out the sides and bottom of the 34-foot cruiser, Corporal Shockley said. The boat was pulled from 35-foot-deep waters off Thomas Point yesterday and towed to the Casa Marina in Mayo.

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