The owner of a $24 million yacht that caught fire in a Chula Vista boat yard Thursday said he cried when he saw online video of the vessel going up in flames.
“Am I angry? No. Anger is not the right word,” said Larry Jodsass in a phone interview with NBC 7. “It was my toy, my wonderful, beautiful piece of equipment. I think it’s the most beautiful boat that ever has been built.”
Jodsass, 79, is a retired electrical engineer, entrepreneur and former chairman of a successful semiconductor company who now lives in Minnesota.
He said the news of his yacht catching fire at a dry dock was nothing short of devastating.
Jodsass said the yacht he named “Polar Bear” is worth $24 million, took him five years to build and has been in the water for three years. Jodsass said the yacht was dry docked in Chula Vista after a winter journey to Costa Rica.
On Thursday at around 9:15 a.m. a fire broke out on the yacht, engulfing the vessel and sending flames and plumes of smoke into the air near the dry dock in the 900 block of G Street.
Dispatchers said there was a lot of fuel aboard the vessel, so fire crews were warned of the risk of a possible explosion. Firefighters doused the 100-foot-plus yacht with water from all directions, but with little success because a yacht is designed to keep out water.
Police opened fire on the boat with high-powered rifles to blow out the windows so the water could be more effective.
A hazmat team was also called to the scene.
The shipyard was evacuated as a precaution. Fire officials said two workers suffered minor smoke inhalation injuries.
Fortunately, the fire did not spread to other nearby vessels. However, the yacht sustained heavy damage.
A witness told NBC 7 he and his crew were doing welding work on the yacht when it caught fire. Fire investigators' initial assessment is that the welding started the blaze. As of Thursday night, the burned-out yacht was still smoldering.
Jodass said his yacht was his haven, which he enjoyed to the fullest.
Pictures and video of the Polar Bear posted online show an elegant and opulent interior, mostly with wood-finished floors and walls. There is a widescreen TV in a bedroom. A bathroom has marble countertops.
“The beautiful part with this piece of equipment was that no matter who looked at it, it was like, ‘Wow, how in the hell could you have a boat like that?’” Jodass said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation but fire officials confirmed a welder was working on the vessel at the time of the fire.
That news did not sit well with Jodsass, who said he will question the shipyard until he gets some answers.
“I don’t have enough data to make any positive or negative comment as to why somebody who’s doing their job obviously didn’t get it done because it would not have caught on fire,” he added.
Jodsass said it was a terrible event that took away something he truly loved.
“Do I love that boat? It’s a helluva boat, I just think it was wonderful, I enjoyed it tremendously and I think it was worth the money that I put into it,” he lamented.