MONROE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The owner of Sunset Marina and Resort on Dale Hollow Lake is counting his blessings after a massive fire destroyed much of his business and left an employee with second-degree burns.
As employees continue cleaning up the aftermath of the blaze, marina co-owner Tom Allen recounted the harrowing turn of events.
“I heard a loud explosion, a loud boom, and I turned 180 degrees around and saw the largest fireball I’ve ever seen,” Allen explained.
The fireball and a plume of black smoke had already reached some 50 feet above the marina roof after Allen said a houseboat hit the fuel dock.
“I was expecting fatalities and possibly bodies in the water near the marina because our marina store was full of people; our marina restaurant was full of people. It’s just a miracle no one was killed,” Allen said.
While he was transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation, his general manager, Brad Richardson, suffered second-degree burns.
“When I arrived, his shirt had been burned off, but he had put himself out. He had put the fire out by rolling on the deck and prior to the explosion he had sound enough mind to go over and shut off the emergency shut off button that shut off the floor fuel. Had he not gotten that done, the explosion, the fire would have been a lot worse and probably at that point there would have been fatalities,” Allen said.
While Allen admitted it makes him emotional, he said the disaster has been a humbling situation.
“There was no way I would have thought anyone would have survived an explosion that large and to be standing here and to be talking about what could have been instead of attending funerals, instead of having people that are injured for life, and don’t get me wrong, Brad has some pretty severe burns, but he’s in great spirits and he wants to be back at work. He will be back at work. He’s been with us almost from the beginning 30 years ago; he’s part of the family.” Allen said as his voice began to break.
On Wednesday, while much of his business is buried in ashes, Allen and Richardson are counting their blessings.
“God was looking over all of us. It was really miraculous that they put it out and even more miraculous that nobody was hurt worse. The fire was so big and so hot and it’s just a testament to our community firefighters because they made a goal-line stand right at the 50 yard line,” Allen said.
According to Allen, they are working to begin fuel operations and to restore power to the restaurant which was spared thanks to the efforts of firefighters. He said a decision is expected next week as to if the restaurant will reopen for the season.
“I think the biggest thing we need right now is continued prayer. Like I said, God was watching over us. Everybody’s prayers are greatly appreciated,” Allen said. “We’ve been well taken care of and we just need prayers to get through the days and weeks ahead until we can come up with a formal plan to rebuild.”
Allen added that the generosity from the community has been overwhelming. A customer set up a GoFundMe account to help Richardson as he recovers.