Casino boat catches fire in Port Richey

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Fire rescue crews near Port Richey, Florida reported a boat fire on a casino shuttle boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2004, the NTSB investigated a fire aboard another Port Richey casino shuttle owned by Suncruz called the Express Shuttle II.

All passengers and crew members have been accounted for.

Fifteen people complaining of chest pain, smoke inhalation and other minor injuries were taken to the hospital to be checked, authorities initially said.

The victim had been receiving treatment for serious injuries at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson but passed early Monday, Jan. 15, a spokesperson said.

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.

The Coast Guard has not said where the fire began or why but it quickly burned out of control, forcing everyone aboard to jump ship into shallow water. "There were multiple people in the water", Zimmerman recounted.

Authorities credited the ships captain, who brought the burning boat within 100 yards of shore — making it easier for the dozens of passengers to make it safely back to land. Local residents then offered them towels, socks and water to drink. "Whatever I had to do to keep them warm", he says.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse said investigators will determine the cause of the fire and examine the history of the boat and Tropical Breeze Casino.

The 60-foot boat was headed to a Sun Cruz Casino boat, located three miles from the coast in global waters for legal gambling.

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