Teen who survived boat explosion thankful to be alive

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Boat explosion victim, Jonathan Rivera, has second degree burns to his arms and legs, and a broken nose and ankle, but he says he's just happy he's alive.

"I'm burnt on both legs, my hair was singed, my eyelashes were scorched off, but I'm here kickin'," the 17-year-old from Laveen said from his hospital bed at Maricopa Medical Center Tuesday.

On Monday afternoon he was with two friends, Mikal and David Benion and their father, on board a boat that exploded, caught fire, and sank on Lake Pleasant.

The three others on board jumped into the water as the boat went up in flames, but Rivera says he was knocked unconscious and literally started to burn up.

"My best friend's dad had noticed I was knocked out and the fire was scorching my legs, and he was like 'Get him out! Get him out right now because he's burning real bad!'"

Rivera says he was pulled into the water and that woke him up, but he says he was so disoriented he climbed back onto the boat, not realizing it was burning.

Shortly after, rescue crews pulled him to safety and rushed him to the shore. He was airlifted to Maricopa Medical Center where he remains in the burn unit.

He has burns on nine percent of his body, but doctors say his prognosis is good.

"If you're in an explosion, doesn't matter small or big, there's a big risk," said Dr. Sydney Vail, medical director of the trauma program at MCC. "This kid is lucky, he's just got a great attitude."

Rivera also has a big heart and says he's just happy his friends escaped unharmed. But he says he is disappointed he'll have to miss the first week of his senior year at Cesar Chavez High School.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation but the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says no foul play is suspected.

The group had just filled up the boat with gas right before it exploded, so investigators are looking into whether a buildup of gas in the engine compartment played a part.