Casino shuttle boat engulfed by flames, dozens safely escape; 1 dead

Peter Castro
January 16, 2018

A casino shuttle boat caught fire Sunday afternoon in Port Richey, Florida, forcing dozens to evacuate - some into the frigid canal on the area's coldest day of the year, authorities said.

The boat was headed to an offshore casino ship, where gambling is legal, when the fire broke out just after 4 p.m.

He said the shuttle boat was close to shore when it had engine problems and the crew made a decision to turn back. Passengers had to jump into the cool waters to swim to safety on shore.

Pasco Sheriff's Office patrol, marine and air unit responded to assist, as well as the Florida Wildlife Commission and the Coast Guard.

There were no serious injuries in that incident but one crew member landed in the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.

While the fire appears to have started in the engine room, the exact cause remained unclear Sunday evening.

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The former Long Islander says when he saw the confused passengers coming out of the water he did what came natural to him. I brought them socks and more towels'.

The boat was carrying passengers to the Sun Cruz Casino boat, which was anchored in nearby worldwide waters, authorities said.

The boat caught on fire just 100 yards from shore.

The fire department said that because the water wasn't deep, rescue workers were able to get to the victims much quicker. One person is still unaccounted for, according to authorities.

Photos from the sheriff's office and Port Richey Police show the shuttle fully engulfed in flames.

The shuttle ferries passengers to and from the actual Tropical Breeze casino boat, which is anchored in the Gulf of Mexico three miles off the coast in worldwide waters, officials said.

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