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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

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Wonderful Life not so wonderful
Flames and smoke pour from a fire on the luxury yacht "It's A Wonderful Life" last Wednesday afternoon, March 24, just over two miles offshore from Longboat Pass as firefighting boats from the U.S. Coast Guard and West Manatee Fire & Rescue battle the blaze. The three people on board at the time were not injured, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Islander Photo: J. Robertson
Luxury yacht destroyed by fire

Three people escaped injury last Wednesday afternoon, March 24, when the $4 million yacht they were traveling in burned up a little more than two miles offshore from Longboat Pass.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson said the three people on board the "It's A Wonderful Life" were the captain, Dean McJennis of Ft. Lauderdale, and the boat's owners, Alan and Kathryn Wisney. The 83-foot boat was registered in the British Virgin Islands. A nearby boater rescued the three from the burning vessel, the spokesperson said.

Firefighting efforts were conducted offshore by the Coast Guard and the West Manatee Fire & Rescue District.

The boat eventually sank in 27 feet of water approximately 2.2 miles west of Longboat Pass, and six feet of the hull is still visible, the USCG said.

Hazard warning lights and buoys have been placed around the location as a warning to boat traffic in the area.

Salvage efforts are under way, the spokesperson said, but if the owners don't move the vessel, the Coast Guard could step in and remove the boat, then bill the owners for the cost.

"But we will work with the owners to remove the vessel," the spokesperson noted.

Tests will be conducted on any environmental impact the boat and any remaining diesel fuel on board might have to the surrounding waters, he added.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.