At least one woman was killed after a casino shuttle boat went up in flames Sunday afternoon in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida — forcing more than 50 passengers to jump overboard into the shallow water.
The woman died late Sunday hours after the fire began, while 14 other people were injured, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point spokesman Kurt Conover said on Monday. The woman had gone home after escaping the boat engulfed in flames, but went to the hospital’s emergency room after she became ill.
Other passengers experienced chest pain, smoke inhalation and other injuries. Conover said eight people treated at Bayonet Point have been released.
Authorities responded to the scene around 4:00 p.m. after receiving a call that the San Cruz casino boat caught fire, WTSP reported. The flames quickly spread, causing people to jump overboard into the shallow water. The 50 passengers made it to shore safely where medics treated them, the news station added.
Larry Santangelo, 57, said he had just driven into his neighborhood when he saw smoke and fire and thought a house — possibly his own — was ablaze. But then he realized it was the boat just about 100 yards offshore.
“It was so windy and they were soaking wet,” said Santangelo, adding that a woman collapsed when she reached the shore and vomited. He worried that some might suffer from hypothermia.
Santangelo said he brought in about 30 passengers into his garage to warm them up.
“They didn’t have much time to decide whether or not to jump,” said Bakr Jandali, 19, who was with his family at home nearby when they heard the commotion. “The fire was moving fast. It was a hard jump.”
Port Richey Chief of Police Gerard DeCanio told The Associated Press the shuttle boat’s crew detected engine problems and decided to turn back. Police released a photo and video showing the boat in flames, spitting thick black smoke into the air.
The shuttle boat carries people back and forth from the Tropical Breeze Casino Cruise, which is offshore because it can’t legally operate close to land.
A representative for the casino declined Fox News’ request for a comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.