Authorities in Pasco County, Florida, are investigating a casino shuttle boat that caught fire Sunday afternoon off the Florida coast near Tampa, killing one woman and injuring several others.
The casino shuttle boat was taking about 50 passengers to the Tropical Breeze casino boat about three miles offshore in international waters when the fire broke out for unknown reasons. The casino shuttle boat was in a canal in Port Richey, Florida, and about 100 feet from the nearest shore when the crew discovered heavy smoke and the captain turned the boat back to port.
Video taken by witnesses shows the boat go from smoke to roaring flames in less than five minutes.
To everybody asking for the full video. It was very terrifying, but 911 was called immediately and our whole neighborhood came together to help in any way possible when they came to shore. https://t.co/InehllkD8q via @YouTube
— Bakr Jandali (@bakrjandali) January 15, 2018
Witnesses said the fire rapidly swept through the boat, leaving many passengers no option but to jump from the casino shuttle boat into the frigid waters and swim to shore on the area’s coldest day of the year so far. Temperatures in the area were in the mid-40s and the waters were about 59 degrees – low enough to cause hypothermia in minutes.
According to ABC News, the water was 8-10 feet deep where the passengers jumped ship. The casino shuttle boat’s proximity to shore facilitated rescue efforts and likely saved lives. The Pasco County Fire Department said that rescuers were pulling people from the water onto shore.
Fifteen of the people from the casino shuttle boat were taken to the hospital with various exposure-related injuries, including smoke inhalation and hypothermia. One of those injured, a 42-year-old woman, died from her injuries Sunday night, a spokesman from Bayonet Point Regional Medical Center told ABC News. No additional details about the woman’s death were available on Monday. No other injuries are considered to be life-threatening, authorities said.