Part-owners of houseboat speak after deadly explosion on Lake Powell

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jul 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-13 23:59:38-04

LAKE POWELL, Utah -- For 18 years, Summer Paradise has been a getaway for the Mills family, but their annual trip to Lake Powell took an unexpected turn when Wendy Mills got an update on her phone about an explosion on a houseboat.

The blast aboard "Summer Paradise" killed 52-year-old Kirsten Meyer of Castle Rock, Colorado and critically injured four others.

“We were planning on going this Sunday," Mills said. "We had it all planned out. We had all the food, and everything is packed already."

Mills didn't know it was their boat until she talked to her husband.

“He said that houseboat that blew up was ours, and I said 'You're kidding, right?' and he said, 'No, it was our houseboat, the president of the boat just called,'” Mills recalled.

The boat was anchored in Crystal Springs Canyon near the Bull Frog Marina. The San Juan County Sheriff's Office says about two dozen people were on the boat at the time.

“I’ve been sick to my stomach all day," Mills said. "First of all to the family it happened to, and second of all, it could have been us; we were supposed to be down there Sunday all week, and what would have happened if we were on the boat?"

The Mills, along with eight other families, share ownership of the houseboat. Throughout the day, they received updates on the tragedy and learned the generator blew up.

“The generator is below the bottom or the back deck, it's underneath, and you have to open it up to get to it and they were trying to start it,” Mills said.

The president of the boat owners' association told the Mills when the explosion happened it sent people flying through the sliding glass doors. Wendy said the generator is only a couple of years old, and the boat had undergone maintenance last week.

“I just think it's a freak accident; that's just what happened," she said. "Sometimes the generators just quit. My husband has had to go down there multiple times."

Mills says the woman who died was a family friend of the owner who was using the boat at the time. The four others who were critically injured suffered burns, broken bones and facial injuries.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office along with the National Park Service are investigating.