Boat sinks in flames off Carolina coast

CALABASH, N.C. --An engine fire at sea Wednesday morning forced 26 passengers and crew members to jump from their charter-fishing boat into the ocean, where they clung to rubber life rafts and watched the burning boat sink until help arrived.

"I didn't know at the time if I was making the right decision," said captain Dan Manos of the Miss Calabash II, who ordered his passengers into the water. "But once I had been in the water five minutes, I looked at that boat and I knew I did the right thing."

The fishing charter departed from the Calabash Fishing Fleet's dock early Wednesday for a 12-hour trip. When they were about 18 miles southeast of the Little River inlet - not even halfway to the first fishing spot - Manos felt an unusual heat coming from inside the boat, he said.

He opened a hatch and flames shot out. He managed to radio another captain before ordering passengers to start jumping overboard.

"You could feel the fire on the back of your legs," said Manos, a captain of 30 years, adding that he was still wondering whether he could put out the flames himself even as he jumped. "I'll never quit thinking about it. I lost a boat."

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