Cruise boat shuttle catches fire, 50 rescued from Gulf of Mexico waters

by Sophie Craig January 16, 2018, 1:07
Cruise boat shuttle catches fire, 50 rescued from Gulf of Mexico waters

A fire engulfed a boat off the Florida coast near New Port Richey, causing 50 people aboard to jump into the Gulf of Mexico.

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

About 50 people were on the casino shuttle at the time of the fire, authorities said.

He says the shuttle boat was close to shore when it had engine problems and the crew made a decision to turn back.

All passengers and crew members have been accounted for.

Authorities said that all injuries sustained by passengers are not life threatening.

Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point spokesman Kurt Conover said Monday that the passenger arrived at the hospital's emergency room at 10 p.m. Sunday and died shortly afterward.

Hypothermia was a danger for survivors as temperatures were unseasonably cold in the Tampa Bay region - with air temperatures low as 43 degrees Sunday and water temperature 59 degrees.

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Pasco deputies were assisted by firefighters, Coast Guard personnel and FWC officers in the rescue in the Port Richey canal of the passengers aboard the shuttle that serves Port Richey-based SunCruz Ltd.

After the boat caught fire, the captain beached it about 100 feet from the shore. "There were multiple people in the water", Zimmerman recounted.

Local resident Larry Santangelo, 57, told the Tampa Bay Times: 'It was so windy and they were soaking wet. "I just started putting them anywhere I could fit them — my garage, my fishing room".

"All of us, my family and the neighbors, brought them towels and water", Jandali said.

She said there had never been any issues with the boat, which was destroyed by the fast-moving fire.

The company says the boat did not have any previous problems.

Officials said the shuttle vessel was headed out to the casino ship at the time of the fire.


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