Unattended Fire In Cabin Caused $6.78M In Damage


Candles lit and left unattended in a yacht’s VIP suite caused a fire that resulted in the total loss of the $6.3M yacht and $480,000 in damage to a Miami marina and adjacent vessels, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s Marine


A fire broke out aboard the privately owned yacht while moored at the Island Gardens Deep Harbour Marina on Watson Island in Miami, Florida. 

The crew of four and a guest on board safely evacuated the vessel as the fire quickly spread. While local firefighters and crews from neighboring yachts attempted to extinguish the fire, the yacht capsized onto its starboard side. 

No injuries were reported, but an oil sheen was observed. Total damage was estimated at $6.78 million: the yacht, valued at $6.3 million, was declared a constructive total loss; repair costs for the marina and adjacent vessels were $480,000.


About 10 minutes prior to the crew first noting smoke, the chief stewardess escorted the guest to the port VIP suite, where she lit three candles and placed them on top of the wood veneer dresser beneath a porthole decorated with curtains above. 

The candles were lit to illuminate the space because the lighting was out throughout the lower deck (as well as in the main salon on the main deck above).

After leaving two lit candles unattended, the chief stewardess followed the guest to the sky lounge. The fire report revealed the fire originated in the port VIP suite. 

As the safety advisory issued by the Andiamo’s flag state warned, “leaving open flames such as…candles unattended” poses a fire risk. 

The candles also had not been secured on candle holders or any other type of secondary containment to ensure they would remain stationary, a precaution particularly important on a vessel likely to sway even within its berth. 

As the open flames burned, the curtains hanging alongside the porthole above the dresser nearby likely provided the combustible material that started the fire. 

Further, the vessel’s interior spaces were framed in wood with veneer, as well as outfitted and furnished with wood and other flammable materials, allowing the fire to spread upward. 

Although several of the rooms and adjoining spaces on the lower deck were equipped with smoke detectors, the fire-detection and alarm system for the vessel had been inoperable during the two months before the fire, as reported by ABS on October 2. 

While attempts were being made by the crew to repair the system, multiple visits from ABS indicated the system and alarms were not functioning. If fully functional, the fire-detection and alarm system would have alerted the crew of the fire’s location at its onset and thus provided an opportunity for a direct response. 

Earlier detection of the fire likely would have allowed the crew to suppress the fire with onboard equipment such as handheld fire extinguishers.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the fire aboard the private yacht was burning candles left unattended that resulted in an undetected fire in a guest cabin. 

Contributing to the severity of the fire was the crew’s failure to complete timely repairs to a fire-detection and alarm system known to be inoperable for two months.

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Source: usa.gov