By ALLEN HENRY
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INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCC) — For the past five years, Craig Lade says he has enjoyed living on his “River Belle” houseboat in Inver Grove Heights.
“It’s like going to your cabin every night after work instead of going home. I mean, it’s a life in a small house… but a relaxing life.” Lade said. “Take it out every summer, we go down the river and spend the weekends on an island somewhere to get away and…just a chill life.”
Lade docked the ship last week and flew to Mexico for a destination wedding with his now-wife, Mi.
Tuesday was the last night of his trip. It is also when they received a message that changed their lives.
“We were sitting down to dinner and we got a text from one of our neighbors that he had heard an explosion and he came out and our boat was on fire,” Lade said. “I think both she and I were a little bit shocked and in awe of that. The rest of the night was long and quiet.”
According to the Inver Grove Heights Fire Department, they received a call just before 7:00 p.m. Tuesday night about a boat on fire at the marina. When they arrived, River Belle was engulfed in flames that had spread to a second ship.
IGHFD says the fires took two hours to extinguish and one firefighter fell into the Mississippi River during the fight. He was pulled out unharmed.
Lade says that nothing could have prepared them for what they found when they returned.
“You sit there and everything you have is gone. You know, your life is gone. All. You no longer have a place to call home and you no longer get into your own bed at night,” Lade said. “It’s a lot to try to understand everything at once and it’s just taking small steps at a time.”
The Inver Grover Heights fire chief is investigating the cause of the fire, something Lade says he is trying not to dwell on as it may never be known.
“It is a miracle that we are gone. I mean, our friends who were with us are like, ‘Who would have thought that your wedding saved your life?’” she said. “It could have been something we noticed before it caught fire, but we won’t know. All we know is that we are still alive. We could have been in bed and not realized it until it was too late. So we count our blessings.”
Community members have been coming together to help the Lades get through this difficult time. A GoFundMe for the couple raised $6,000 in just two days, helping them not only financially, Lade says, but also emotionally and spiritually.
“The support we’ve received from our Castaways community and all of our friends has been incredible. I mean, you find out you have friends you didn’t know you had. You know?” Lade said, growing emotional.
Just don’t expect to see the funds go towards a new houseboat.
“We loved it, but…I don’t know if I could ever be in one again after seeing this,” Lade said, pointing to the burned remains of the Belle River.
Another one of those blessings that he has focused on is, of course, his new girlfriend. He simply did not expect the ‘for richer or poorer’ vote to be put to the test so soon.
“If we can survive this, it probably won’t be too long in our relationship from now on that can be that bad. So it’s a real proof of our love,” she said.
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