One woman has died and another 15 are injured due to a fire that broke out on a shuttle boat. According to CNN, the boat was taking passengers to a casino boat near New Port Richy, Florida, which is just north of Tampa.
The female passenger who died was only 42 years old and passed away on Sunday at about 10:42 pm. She passed away at the Bayonet Point Regional Medical Center, where she was being treated for her injuries. The extent of her injuries hasn't yet been released.
CNN reports that 50 people were on board when the fire first began about half a mile from shore. Fire department officials report that the fire likely began in the engine room and then, rather than remaining only in the engine room, quickly began to spread throughout the rest of the boat.
Officials said that the boat's captain saved lives because he turned the boat around the moment he saw the flames. By turning the boat around he was able to get closer to shore. As a result, first responders were then able to reach the boat quicker. Without the captain's quick thinking, it is almost certain that yesterday's tragedy would have been even worse.
"We called 911 as soon as possible and we thought we were witnessing a tragedy happen. It was really hard to watch but we were glad they were close to shore and our whole neighborhood came together to pass blankets and whatever care they needed," remarked Bakr Jandali, a local person.
"Our front door neighbor Larry opened his garage for all of them to come in and that was a huge help," Jandali said. "He offered blankets and other things as well as the other neighbors. The whole neighborhood [was] communicating and going back to our houses to get whatever they need like water or clothes like socks."
Local man Larry Santangelo said that he had just driven into his neighborhood when he first saw the smoke. At first, he thought that maybe a house, perhaps even his own, had gone down in flames. But then he quickly realized that it was a boat about 100 yards from shore that was on fire.
CNBC reports that it wasn't immediately clear what caused the fire — which reportedly sent large clouds of dark smoke waning over the sunny skies — but investigators are looking into the cause.
The shuttle reportedly carries people back and forth from the Tropical Breeze Casino Cruise, which is offshore because it cannot legally operate close to land. The shuttle was headed out to the casino ship at the time of the fire.
In recent news, a pastor and his wife were killed after an Amtrak train collided with an SUV.