Maine Game Warden doused a Fourth of July boat fire in Hartland Wednesday. All of the boat's passengers made it safe to shore. Credit: Maine Warden Service

Eight people who went tubing on the Fourth of July on Hartland’s Morrill Pond made it safely to shore when their boat burst into flames, authorities said.

Christopher Gibson, 43, of Acworth, Georgia, was towing his son and his son’s friend on a tube behind his 18-foot, 1997 Rinker speed boat when the motor’s engine caught fire, according to Cpl. John MacDonald, spokesman for the Maine Warden’s Service. Five other passengers were aboard the boat when the flames broke out.

Gibson and his passengers — all of whom were under the age of 16 — jumped from the burning vessel and were ferried safely to shore by other boaters, just as members of the fire department arrived to assist in the rescue, said Hartland Assist Fire Chief Charles Gould.

The pond was filled with boats for the Fourth of July holiday, Gould said. One man who helped shuttle the marooned teenagers said he drove his boat over when he saw passengers “bailing out” over the side, he said.

The boat was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters reached the boat, which was in the middle of the pond, as far from the beach as could be, Gould said. Firefighters towed it back to shore and doused the fire there. The boat was destroyed, Gould said.

Wardens, who arrived after everyone made it safely to land, have not yet determined the cause of the fire, MacDonald said. Authorities believe the flames started inside the engine, which Gibson had just topped off with 18 gallons of fuel, Gould said.

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Callie Ferguson

Callie Ferguson is an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News. She writes about criminal justice, police and housing.