One Dead After Fire on Casino Shuttle Boat
On Sunday, a shuttle boat carrying passengers to the Tropical Breeze Casino suffered an engine problem and caught fire, forcing about 50 passengers to jump into the water at Port Richey, Florida. The vessel burned to the waterline.
The shuttle was near shore at the time of the incident and in shallow waters. All passengers and crew waded to shore, and officials initially said that none had suffered life-threatening injuries, though some passengers reported symptoms of smoke inhalation. Observers estimated that the jump into the water was about 12 feet and the distance to shore was about 100 yards.
Not all survived the incident, however. One 42-year-old female passenger returned home from the scene of the accident, then fell ill and sought treatment at the local emergency room on Sunday night. For reasons that have not yet been determined, she died shortly after her arrival at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.
"We are deeply saddened for the loss of our passenger, the 14 injured and anyone else who was affected by this tragedy," said Tropical Breeze Casino spokeswoman Beth Fifer in a statement Monday. She added that the shuttle boat had never had any issues before Sunday's accident.
Tropical Breeze Casino operates the Tropical Breeze I, a 78-foot aluminum-hulled vessel built in 1991. The boat operates in international waters and offers gambling options that are not allowed in the state of Florida. It received its customers by means of the shuttle that was destroyed in Sunday's fire. As of Monday, the Tropical Breeze was listed for sale with a broker in Florida for the asking price of $700,000, with a banner indicating that the seller is motivated and accepting offers.
In a statement Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board said that it will be investigating the accident. The U.S. Coast Guard is the lead investigative agency and has already begun looking into the cause of the fire.