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The investigation into the boat fire on Lake Saimaa on 24 July 2016, which put the lives of seven children and four adults at risk, has been completed

Published 3.4.2017

A boat fire broke out on Pitkä Pihlajavesi, part of Lake Saimaa, in the evening of 24 July 2016, progressing extremely rapidly and completely destroying the boat, which eventually sank. The 11 passengers on board, 7 children and four adults, were forced to escape the burning boat into the water without any time to call the emergency services or put on their life vests. The location of the accident and the favourable summery conditions essentially increased the victims’ chances of survival. The quick actions of other boaters nearby as well as the residents of nearby summer cottages also played a decisive role in the rescue operations.

The Safety Investigation Authority gives safety recommendations on the basis of its investigations in order to improve boat safety, to prevent similar accidents in the future and to minimise damages sustained.

In this specific incident, none of the victims had time to make an emergency call. Had the Emergency Response Centre Administration 112 phone application been in use, this would have speeded up the location of the scene of accident. The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that boaters protect their mobile devices from getting wet and download the 112 application on them. It is further recommended that the Emergency Response Centre Administration agree on procedure by which the download link for the 112 phone application is added on the websites of rescue authorities and other rescue operators.

There were life vests for everyone onboard but they were not worn at the time of the accident. As the fire progressed very rapidly, those on the boat did not have time to put them on before leaving the boat.

Boaters are recommended that they wear their life vests while on the boat. If the life vests are not worn continuously, they should be kept within easy reach and always worn when something out of the ordinary happens, such as an engine failure. It is also recommended that, in addition to wearing life vests, public authorities, boating societies and boaters pay attention to the condition and fit of the life vests.

The response to the “vehicle fire, medium severity" call did not include rescue lifeboat personnel. However, there was a vessel out within close distance with the crew onboard, but they were unaware of the accident. The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Ministry of the Interior instruct rescue authorities to review and, if necessary, create separate responses to accidents on land and water and to include voluntary lake rescue stations and the Saimaa Vessel Traffic Services in their resources within lake districts. This would improve and speed up the determination of the appropriate response to a call.

The owner of the boat involved in the accident on Saimaa had little experience in operating the specific type of boat. They had purchased the boat in question only three week prior to the accident. The Safety Investigation Authority recommends that the Finnish Transport Safety Agency draw up procedures by which a new owner is provided safety guidance when registering a new vessel.