Fire burns Sun Cruz Casino shuttle with 50 people aboard

From Pasco Sheriff                       WFTS Assignment Desk

Terrified witnesses watched as people on board a casino boat shuttle jumped into the Gulf waters to escape a fire.

Rescue crews initially reported everyone made it to shore, but now say one person is unaccounted for.

Pasco Sheriff's Office patrol, marine and air unit responded to assist, as well as the Florida Wildlife Commission and the Coast Guard.

The boat was near shore when it was experiencing engine problems, Port Richey Chief of Police Gerard DeCanio said.

Fox 13 News has a crew heading to the scene and will continue to update this story. Some passengers had to be rescued from the water. The boat's captain tried to return the boat to the dock but could get no closer than about 100 feet from shore. "The water was very shallow and the people were able to jump off into the water and actually walk ashore". Conover said eight other passengers were treated at the hospital and released. "There were multiple people in the water", Zimmerman recounted.

Jandali and his family, along with several of his neighbors, watched as dozens of passengers crowded near the bow as the blaze quickly spread from the rear of the boat.

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

Local resident Larry Santangelo, 57, told the Tampa Bay Times: 'It was so windy and they were soaking wet.

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

The shuttle boat takes people some three miles out to the casino boat in global waters, officials said.

NTSB investigators also concluded that back in 2004 the Express Shuttle II crew failed to activate a Carbon dioxide fire suppression system, and couldn't use fire pumps because the engine had already failed.

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