Family, friends mourn avid Arlington Heights boater

 
 
Updated 8/13/2018 7:05 PM
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  • Mitchell Z. Sroka of Arlington Heights loved boating and fishing, his daughter said. He was killed Saturday when his boat exploded in Wilmette Harbor.

    Mitchell Z. Sroka of Arlington Heights loved boating and fishing, his daughter said. He was killed Saturday when his boat exploded in Wilmette Harbor. Courtesy of Cindy Farren

  • Authorities said Monday an accidental boat explosion Saturday in Wilmette Harbor in Wilmette came when one of the boat's engines misfired, shortly after the boat was refueled.

    Authorities said Monday an accidental boat explosion Saturday in Wilmette Harbor in Wilmette came when one of the boat's engines misfired, shortly after the boat was refueled. Courtesy of ABC 7 Chicago

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Family and friends are mourning the death of Arlington Heights resident Mitchell Z. Sroka, the 67-year-old president of P.R. Streich & Sons in Franklin Park killed Saturday when his fishing boat exploded in Wilmette.

His daughter, Cindy Farren of Bolingbrook, said Sroka and a friend from Arlington Heights were preparing the boat for a Sunday fishing tournament when the boat exploded at 8 a.m. at the Sheridan Shores Yacht Club.

Her father's 74-year-old friend has been treated and released from the hospital for the injuries he suffered, but he is still shaken by the tragedy that's affecting all who knew Sroka, Farren said.

ABC 7 reported Monday afternoon that the explosion occurred just after two men refueled the two-engine boat. The driver started one engine, authorities said, and then the second engine misfired but started on a second attempt. The boat exploded on that second attempt, authorities said.

The refueling had been completed before the engines were started, they said. The explosion appears to have been accidental, police said.

Boating and fishing were her father's passions for at least the past quarter-century, she said, as refuges from his responsibilities at the service company that worked with gasoline pumps, hydraulic lifts, air compressors and underground tanks.

"He loved it," Farren said. "He was so into it. Up at 4 a.m. and out fishing. ... I think it was peaceful."

He would regularly head 12 or 15 miles out into Lake Michigan to do his fishing. But occasional longer trips would take him to diverse fishing spots like Door County, Wisconsin, as well as Alaska and Hawaii, Farren said.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources continues to investigate the cause of the explosion.

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