1 dead, 1 injured in Wilmette Harbor boat explosion

WILMETTE (Sun-Times Media Wire) - One man was killed and another man injured when a boat exploded Saturday morning in north suburban Wilmette, officials said.

The explosion happened about 8:05 a.m. in Wilmette Harbor near 20 Harbor Drive, just after the privately owned boat had been fueled, according to Wilmette Deputy Fire Chief Robert Brill and the Village of Wilmette.

Mitchell Z. Sroka, 67, from northwest suburban Arlington Heights was killed in the explosion. His body was found on the boat recovered by divers from the Wilmette and Evanston fire departments, according to Wilmette officials and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

An autopsy conducted Sunday found Sroka died from blunt force injuries related to the explosion and drowning, the medical examiner’s office said. His death was ruled an accident.

A 74-year-old man was injured in the explosion. He was found on the dock and transported to Evanston Hospital with injuries that weren’t life threatening, officials said.

Responders remained at the harbor Saturday afternoon working to contain debris in the immediate area, the deputy chief said.

A boat explosion of that magnitude was “uncommon in the marine world,” Brill said, noting the community had not seen something like it in his time there or the past several decades.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources was investigating the incident.