Casino ship catches fire with 50 passengers onboard off Florida coast


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. "He said he noticed smoke coming from the engine room and turned the boat around", Shawn Whited, division chief with Pasco Fire Rescue, told Reuters. Passengers jumped into the frigid gulf waters and waded to shore as flames destroyed the boat.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office says all of the passengers were able to make it back to shore where EMS crews treated them.

Her name has not been released and a cause of death has not been determined.

Horrified witnesses on shore in nearby homes watched as passengers jumped off the boat.

"All of us, my family and the neighbors, brought them towels and water", Jandali said. All the passengers and crew escaped without life-threatening injuries, police said.

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Larry Santangelo, 57, said that he had just arrived in his locality when he saw the smoke brewing and the fire and had a thought that may be his house was on fire, but soon discerned it was the boat that was 100 yards away. Some passengers had to be rescued from the water.

Port Richey Chief of Police Gerard DeCanio said the shuttle boat was close to shore when it had engine problems and the crew made a decision to turn back.

"It was so windy and they were soaking wet", he said. 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.

A casino shuttle boat caught fire on Sunday in a waterway off the west coast of Florida, leaving one person dead and 14 others injured.