- Shuttle was carrying guests to the Tropical Breeze Casino
- 50 casino visitors forced into water by fire on boat
One person is known to have died and 14 more are receiving treatment for injuries after a casino shuttle boat caught fire in Florida on Sunday afternoon.
Terrified witnesses watched as people on board a casino boat shuttle jumped into the Gulf waters to escape a fire.
— Josh Sidorowicz (@joshsidorowicz) January 15, 2018
The boat was carrying passengers towards the Tropical Breeze Casino cruise ship in the Port Richey Canal when an engine room fire engulfed the vessel, forcing its passengers and crew to jump from the ship.
The 50 passengers swam to shore or were pulled from the water by rescuers. Several were rushed to hospital, some with smoke inhalation and others suffering from the cold, with most expected to make a swift recovery. Sadly, one woman succumbed to her injuries and died in the hospital.
Cruise ship shuttle catches fire
The Sun Cruz Casino boat is one of a number of shuttles serving Florida’s Tropical Breeze Casino. Tropical Breeze is a cruise ship moored three miles out to sea.
By stationing itself in international waters, the ship is able to offer legal gambling. The state of Florida does not allow casino gambling, with the exception of casinos operated under tribal compacts, but riverboat casinos have been a popular workaround for gamblers in the state for many years.
The shuttle boat was carrying 50 passengers on Sunday, representing an almost full capacity load.
It was just 100 feet from the shore, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office reported. The boat’s captain turned the vessel round as soon as the fire become evident – and this no doubt saved the lives of many passengers, ensuring the shore was within swimming distance and giving rescuers a chance to get to victims quickly.
Tragic news as passenger dies from injuries
When the fire broke out and the boat was abandoned, news reports say as many as 40 people entered the water immediately. Early media reports suggested one person was missing, but it was later revealed all 50 passengers made it to shore.
The captain and crew are also known to have made it out safely.
However, the waters close to Tampa were extremely cold, with a 43 degree low reported on shore during the afternoon, and many survivors showed early signs of hypothermia as well as many suffering with smoke inhalation.
As a result, 15 of the 50 were rushed to nearby medical facilities. The majority of the rescued passengers are expected to make a full recovery over the coming days, but sadly a woman in her fifties is known to have died.
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