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Sailboat Fire Kills Boy in Florida: Police

The boy's parents were hospitalized in Miami.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An 11-year-old boy with autism died after a sailboat caught fire in the waters of Stuart, according to police. Police said parents Brian Birely and Karen Laake tried to rescue son Charlie Birely, but were unable to. They were able to make it onto a small dinghy, where they were rescued. (Published Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014)

    An 11-year-old boy died after a sailboat caught fire in the waters of Stuart, according to police.

    Stuart Police said the fire started shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday and caused a propane tank to explode on the St. Lucie River, according to NBC affiliate WPTV.

    Police said parents Brian Birely and Karen Laake tried to rescue son Charlie Birely, but were unable to. They were able to make it onto a small dinghy, where they were rescued.

    Officers were unable to board the sailboat because of the fire's extreme heat.

    Neighbors told WPTV they could see the boat burning from land.

    "Thrown debris a good distance probably. A full-size propane tank exploding, people heard it down at the park,” Frank Pagnini told WPTV. “It was fully engulfed, front to back, the mast had already melted off."

    Police said the parents were hospitalized in Miami.

    Laake, a well-known artist in the Stuart area, is the art manager at the Stuart Coffee Company, where she often brought her son, who had autism, WPTV reported.

    Police spokesman Brian Bossio said the state medical examiner's office was processing the charred remains of the boat on Monday. City police are investigating the fire with several other agencies.