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Passengers safely reach shore after Florida boat catches fire

Passengers safely reach shore after Florida boat catches fire

A Long Island native is being hailed a hero after a fire on a boat forced dozens of passengers to leap for their lives into the chilly waters off Florida's Gulf Coast.

The Sheriff's Office, Port Richey police as well as other agencies are investigating.

The massive fire broke out on the coldest day of the year in Port Richey, which is near Tampa.

Everyone managed to escape the boat, with 15 people taken to a local hospital for treatment for minor injuries, including smoke inhalation and chest pain.

One woman died late on Sunday shortly after arriving at the hospital emergency room.

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.

"I have to praise the boat captain, for getting the boat in so close that when they got in the water they had a very short distance to walk", Andy Fossa, with Pasco County Fire Rescue, said.

When the fire sparked, the captain of the boat beached it about 100 feet from shore. Residents then offered them towels, socks and water to drink. He said passengers waded in waist-deep water before reaching land.

'I just started putting them anywhere I could fir them - my garage, my fishing room.

She said there had never been any issues with the boat, which was destroyed by the fast-moving fire.

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.

Officials said the shuttle vessel was headed out to the casino ship at the time of the fire.


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