1 dead, 14 injured after casino shuttle boat carrying 50 catches fire

Anita Tucker
January 16, 2018

Terrified witnesses watched as people on board a casino boat shuttle jumped into the Gulf waters to escape a fire.

Port Richey police said 15 people were injured in the fire and it was originally believed that none of the injuries were life threatening. The captain saw flames from the engine room and turned the boat closer to shore so passengers could get to safety. Fifteen other passengers were treated at local hospitals for minor injuries smoke inhalation.

The woman's name has not been released and her cause of death has not been determined, the spokesman said.

The boat caught on fire just 100 yards from shore.

A Coast Guard spokesman said investigators are interviewing the captain, crew and passengers, as well as making sure inspections and paperwork are up to date along with all required licenses.

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Some passengers were also able to swim to shore safely.

Jandali and his family, along with several of his neighbors, watched as dozens of passengers crowded near the bow as the blaze quickly spread from the rear of the boat.

Jason Zimmerman of the Port Richey Police Department said he and two fellow officers — Detective Angel Russo and Officer Zane Zabetka — arrived to a chaotic scene.

"It was so windy and they were soaking wet", he said. "I brought them socks and more towels". A Coast Guard inspection two weeks before that 2004 fire failed to detect loose or missing clamps on the boat's diesel fuel lines, a problem later blamed as a precursor to the fire.

The shuttle boat carries people back and forth from the Tropical Breeze Casino Cruise, which is offshore because it can't legally operate close to land.

Other reports by My Hot News

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