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Owner hears loud sudden noise before boat breaks out in fire

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Jesse and Caleb Gavic use their Skyhigh Flyboard equipment to extinguish a boat fire Saturday on Crosslake. (Submitted photo by Skyhigh Flyboard)2 / 4
The aftermath of the boat fire Saturday on Crosslake. (Submitted by Dan Koppy)3 / 4
Dan Koppy and Heidi Mouch watch their boat burn Saturday on Crosslake while on a pontoon nearby that rescued them. (Submitted by Koppy)4 / 4

Dan Koppy and his girlfriend, Heidi Mouch, were out cruising Cross Lake Saturday afternoon on their 1996 Sea Ray boat to meet some friends when they heard a loud, sudden noise.

Koppy said Monday he didn't know what the noise was. He opened the cover to the engine and saw flames. He attempted to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but realized the fire was too big to do it on his own.

"I knew we couldn't stay there," Koppy said. "The smoke was so heavy."

Koppy and Mouch began waving to other boaters around them for help, as they were beginning to panic.

"There were multiple boats around us as they saw the severity of the situation," Koppy said. "One guy, Ryan Peterson from Wisconsin, was visiting the area and he pulled right up to our boat and we jumped on ... Someone had already called 911 and we backed away enough to have a safe distance."

The 911 call was at 3:05 p.m. and the Crosslake Fire Department was en route. In the meantime, smoke was billowing out of the boat as boaters watched. Along the shoreline, Paul Gavic was sitting on his dock and saw the fire. Gavic ran to tell his two sons, Jesse and Caleb, to grab their Skyhigh Flyboard equipment and to try to extinguish the boat fire.

"They threw their stuff together and Jesse went to talk to the boat owner and asked 'Do you mind if I put your fire out?' and they said it was fine," Paul Gavic said.

Paul Gavic, who owns Skyhigh Flyboard based in Minneapolis and rents flyboards in the Brainerd lakes area, said his sons are flyboard champions so he wasn't worried that they would fall into the fire. One son was running the personal watercraft and the other son ran the flyboard. He said the personal watercraft stayed in a position, as an anchor, that would be safe as they worked on extinguishing the boat fire. Gavic said the boys worked on the fire for about two minutes, until the DNR came out with a hovercraft and then took over.

"It's a good thing we went out there otherwise the boat would have burned and sunk and it would have been a mess," Gavic said. "We have a unique set of skills and the boys are good at what they do. I saw someone do this in Michigan."

The boat was pushed to shore at Arrowhead Point, located on the south end of Crosslake, and Crosslake fire conducted overhaul and extinguished the remaining fire. There were no injuries.

Koppy was grateful to the Gavics as he was concerned that the boat could have exploded.

"Everyone did their part to help," Koppy said. "The boat is a total loss, but it can be replaced.

"At the time we really didn't realize the danger we were in until afterwards. I'm very thankful to everyone who helped and glad no one was hurt.

Koppy said he never had any issues with his boat engine until the day of the fire. He said the 26-foot boat had an automatic water system and according to the firefighters, it worked.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.

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