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Sailboat sinks in Ala Wai Harbor after large fire

The 57-year-old owner of the sailboat that went up in flames and sank at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor  said he is now homeless.

Salvatore Di Amore, who does occasional work as a handyman, had nothing but an ukulele and a backpack, but lost everything else in the fire that was reported to the Honolulu Fire Department .

“Everything’s on that boat,” he said, but fortunately, his young daughter was not visiting at the time.

Di Amore said he had just stepped away from the boat after a little tiff with a visitor. Witnesses said the flames were 30 feet high.

No one was injured in the blaze, HFD Battalion Chief Alan Carvalho said.

Nine units with 35 personnel responded, including a rescue unit.

The first crew was on scene at 8:35 p.m., and used a quick stream of water, but firefighters continued to douse the flames with water from the hand lines. The boat then sank at 9:50 p.m.

The fire department had difficulty getting enough pressure to extinguish the fire due to the location, and had to run several hundred feet of hand line along the pier, Carvalho said.

As for the cause, Carvalho said, “It doesn’t seem to be intentionally set.” But police spoke with witnesses and that the boat owner was away at the time the fire started. Other boat owners notified him of the fire.

Carvalho said a couple of witnesses were unreliable and gave police two different names.

Di Amore said a woman and man came aboard the boat. The woman got angry because she was rebuffed by him, so he asked them to leave. When they didn’t, he left.

The 36-year-old homeless woman, who was possibly the last person aboard, later went to apologize to him saying, “I didn’t do anything intentional.”

The woman said the boat had no electricity and there was a candle on the floor, but she went to a neighboring boat asking for a lighter.

That neighbor, Mark Hudman, 62, said the woman was angry with Di Amore, came onto his boat and began throwing a knife and wrenches past him.

He said the woman told him: “Sal’s never going to burn me again,” and she asked for a lighter.

Di Amore said he had lived at the harbor for about a year.

Another boat owner, Erik Christiansen, described Di Amore’s boat as sketchy and the people that hung out there were “not the best crowd.” He said he saw the fire start, and ran to help.

There was a woman on a neighboring boat. “We were all screaming to get off,” he said. “She hopped off the boat,” onto the pier and asked for help to move it, but “it looked like it was about to blow,” he said. The burning boat’s mast fell and hit another boat about 10 feet away.

He and others also tried to get the others to leave their boats.

A woman said she was hoping the boat owner was still alive.

Resident Bob Miller, who lives on his boat at the Ala Wai, said the boat’s slip was in the 800 row, and the boat likely had a diesel tank, which made it difficult to fight.

“It’s scary to see something like this,” he said.

 

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