January 15, 2018 11:43 AM


A casino shuttle boat carrying around 50 passengers caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico, authorities said Sunday, killing a 42-year-old woman and leaving others with minor injuries.

All passengers were able to make it to shore, where EMS treated them, said the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. Members from patrol, Marine and the Air Unit responded to assist Fire Rescue and the Coast Guard, who arrived at the scene around 4:17 p.m., local time.

The boat was filled with passengers being shuttled to the Tropical Breeze casino boat, which is anchored roughly three miles off the coast, according to local outlet WTSP.

The identity of the woman and cause of death have yet to be released, according to the news outlet. She was hospitalized after experiencing “symptoms” on Sunday evening and later passed away, the police confirmed. PEOPLE’s request for additional comment was not immediately returned by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.

Casino boat on fire
Tambrey Laine/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point spokesman Kurt Conover said, Monday, that the woman had arrived less than an hour after becoming ill, WTSP reported.

Witnesses on shore in nearby homes recalled watching passengers jump off the boat to escape the flames.

“We were terrified for everyone onboard because they were jumping out very slowly,” onlooker Bakr Jandali told the news outlet.

Passenger Shelia Mcaffee, who was on the boat with her husband, told WTSP that they had to jump eight or 10 feet into the water and then get to the shore.


“They were pulling clothes of their closest to bring out to us to put on to keep warm,” said Mcaffee.

All other passengers suffered non-critical injuries, although more than a dozen people were hospitalized mostly for smoke inhalation and chest pains, reported CNN.

Port Richey Police Chief Gerard DeCanio said that it was because of the captain that so many lives were saved.

“What he did was he brought [the shuttle] closer to shore, actually almost beaching the boat,” said DeCanio. “The water was very shallow and the people were able to jump off into the water and actually walk ashore.”

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