Survivors of Richmond Yacht Basin fire tell their stories

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s been three days since 15 boats were destroyed at the Richmond Yacht Basin Marina and now we’re hearing first hand from survivors of that fire.

Two men say they were asleep aboard their boats when the flames broke out.

“I heard a couple of pops and didn’t really think anything of it,” David Napier said.

Those pops awoke Napier from a dead sleep.

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“The bartender that works with me lives on the next boat over and has much thinner walls than I do, and he came out to find out what the popping noise was and instantly opened the door to my boat and yelled fire,” Napier said.

That man was Dave Hughes.

“I really just frankly thought someone was making a racquet so I went outside to see who it was and found one boat completely engulfed in flames,” Hughes said.

The two men were trapped on the dock with fire blocking the exit to land, so the only option was to swim.

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“I ran straight up and started the boat, came down to try to untie and unplug,” Hughes said.

There was no time to completely untie from the dock. Napier hit the throttle and broke the cables still holding the boat. From the middle of the river, they watched as everything Hughes owned went up in flames.

“Everything, that houseboat was my home,” Hughes said.

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Napier says his focus then turned to another friend who was living just a few boats down. He saw that boat was destroyed and was afraid his friend didn’t make it out alive.

“I had to call Bill and tell him that the boat was a total loss thinking his son had died in the flames,” Napier said.

Thankfully, that man wasn’t on the boat that night. He decided to stay in town.

This boating community is now left to rebuild. Around 15 boats were damaged, but everyone made it out alive.

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