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Personal watercraft explodes at boat launch, killing Moreno Valley man

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A Moreno Valley man was killed after a personal watercraft he was trying to start at a boat launch on the Colorado River exploded, authorities said.

Deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call at 12:39 p.m. Friday for a boating incident at River Shore Estates in Earp, on the California-Arizona border. When deputies arrived, medical staff from Buckskin Fire Department and River Medical Ambulance were already helping the victim, identified as Juan Antonio Pineda-Flores, according to a news release.

Pineda-Flores, 48, was trying to start a personal watercraft that was still on a trailer at the launch ramp when fuel or vapors inside the vessel’s hull ignited, according to witness statements collected by authorities. The watercraft exploded and launched Pineda-Flores into the water.

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The man suffered lacerations high up on his right and left legs, said Sgt. Jeffrey Cross of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s Marine Enforcement Unit. Cross said officials do not think alcohol was a factor.

After the explosion, Pineda-Flores was transported to the La Paz Regional Medical Center in Parker, Ariz., where he died from his injuries, authorities said.

Such explosions are becoming more common with high temperatures and ethanol-based fuels, Cross said. Four similar incidents have occurred this season, he said.

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“Ethanol fuel breaks down fuel lines and gaskets in engines, causing fuel leaks, and the compression of initial startup causes explosions,” he said.

Cross encouraged boaters to use blowers to ventilate engine compartments to help avoid such incidents.

Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact Deputy W. Poe at (760) 326-9200. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call (800) 782-7463.

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