Arlington Heights Man Killed in Apparent Accidental Boat Explosion, Wilmette Harbor

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A 67-year-old Arlington Heights man was killed about 8:00 a.m. Saturday August 11, 2018 after a boat explosion and fire in Wilmette Harbor, 10 Harbor drive in north suburban Wilmette. The accident occurred near the fuel dock, which is very close to the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette.

The private boat exploded at about 8:00 a.m. just southwest of the Sheridan Shores Yacht Club at the fuel dock. A second man was injured. The injured man is a 74-year-old Arlington Heights resident. He was transported to a Evanston Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.


Police say the explosion appears to be accidental. The initial investigation shows that the fire may have started on the boat, since the dock has minimal damage.

The identity of the man who was killed is Mitchell Sroka. He apparently died from injuries from the explosion, and was found in the water. Sroka’s body was recovered by divers. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The boat was engulfed with flames, and also sunk. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office did not immediately release a cause of death.

A dive response operation with MABAS Division 3 divers was activated, but a full MABAS Dive Box was not needed to find the man’s body underwater.

Firefighters also set up white floating oil/gasoline/hazardous material containment booms to protect the waterway.

The injured man was standing on the dock when the boat exploded. The boat was tethered to a fuel dock when it exploded, according to Wilmette Fire Chief Benjamin Wozney.

Wozney said the boat was not being fueled at the time of the fire and the fueling station was unharmed in the incident. It is unclear what started the fire.

Evanston divers, Highland Park divers also responded.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), which responds to inland watercraft incidents, is investigating.



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BC26 relays report of a boat explosion from police; requests A26, A27 and E27.

Male, age 60, found dead in water. Boat fire, then boat sunk. Second male victim transported to Evanston Hospital — non-life-threatening injuries.


ENGINE(S): E27  

TRUCK(S): TL26  

SQUAD(S): SQD26 with Boat  

CHIEF(S): BC26  BC28

EMS: A26  A27  

E = Engine, T = Ladder Truck, TL = Tower Ladder, Q = Quint, SQD = Squad, BC = Battalion Chief, A = Ambulance

CBS Chicago: One person is dead, another injured in an explosion on a boat in Wilmette Harbor.

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