The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Boaters allegedly harassed another group over gay pride flags. Then their boat burst into flames.

Video taken on Moses Lake in Washington showed a boat catch fire moments after the group aboard allegedly harassed another group flying a pride flag on May 30. (Video: @uhohbigboi/TikTok)

A previous version of this article misstated that the incident took place on Memorial Day. It occurred Sunday. It also misstated the name of a newspaper as the Spokane Review. It is the Spokesman-Review, based in Spokane, Wash. This version has been corrected.

When another boat began circling their vessel in a lake on Memorial Day weekend, a group from Washington assumed they were trying to signal support for their gay pride flags.

But then someone on the other boat flipped a middle finger and yelled something about “gays” and “flags,” a passenger on the boat said. So the group started recording in case the situation escalated.

It did — but not how they might have expected.

Moments later, the other boat burst into flames, forcing its passengers to jump into the lake — and leaving the victims to become rescuers as they filmed a moment that turned into a viral video this week.

“These people harassed my family because we were flying gay pride flags … by racing around us and shouting gay slurs,” tweeted a passenger named Robbie along with a video that has been viewed more than 620,000 times on Twitter as of early Wednesday. “Then, their boat literally blew up! #KarmaIsReal.”

The Grant County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the incident took place on Sunday on Moses Lake, adding that the agency was working to interview the vessel’s occupants before releasing more information. Police did not identify anyone onboard the two boats.

“We are currently interviewing the boat owners to determine if a crime occurred,” Sheriff Tom Jones told The Washington Post late Tuesday.

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Robbie, 32, told The Post in a statement that he, his brother and two other passengers had spent Sunday swimming, listening to music and tubing in the lake about 100 miles west of Spokane. (Robbie declined to provide his last name out of fear of retaliation).

Around 7 p.m., the group stopped their boat, which carried a rainbow flag from one of Robbie’s first pride events, as well as another gay pride flag belonging to his brother.

That’s when they noticed a small vessel carrying three people speeding toward them. One of the other boat’s passengers, a woman, yelled something unintelligible before flipping her middle finger, Robbie said.

Then, as the boat seemed to speed away, it made a sharp turn and circled around them at least six times.

“At this point I could clearly hear the words ‘gays’ and ‘flags’ being shouted from their boat,” Robbie said.

By then, Robbie’s brother was already recording with his phone. When the other boat noticed the group was filming, the driver attempted to hide his face before speeding away, leaving a cloud of smoke behind and waves that rocked Robbie’s boat back and forth.

Moments later, the group heard a loud bang and sputter coming from the other boat, and saw a cloud of black smoke rising. “Holy crap! They blew up!” said Robbie’s brother, who was driving the boat.

Robbie’s brother steered toward the boat, which was consumed in flames.

“Help us! We’re burning!” shouted the woman who had flipped her middle finger at them moments earlier, Robbie said. Robbie and the rest of his group pulled the burning boat’s occupants to safety and then sped away before calling 911.

“The passengers were quite rude, shouting over us, ignoring my [inquiries] about their well being when on the 911 call and smoking a Vape pen on our boat without even so much as asking if they could; several passengers of our boat have asthma,” Robbie told The Post.

Eventually, police arrived to extinguish the flames. The rescued boaters left to jump on a friend’s vessel without saying thank you, Robbie said.

Grant County Deputy Kyle Foreman told the Spokane Spokesman-Review it is not yet clear why the boat caught fire. The boat was eventually towed back to the shore, Foreman told the paper.

Robbie later tweeted a clip of two pride flags flying over the lake from his boat, writing, “And we’re back at it again! We will not hide our #pride.”