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Quick action saved passengers when casino boat caught fire

On January 14, 2018, a vessel shuttling people to a casino boat moored off the west coast of Florida caught fire, endangering the lives of all on board. The captain was given credit for quick action that helped save the passengers and crew.

Although the cause of the fire is not yet known, the incident highlights the importance of safety aboard any kind of vessel.

An otherwise ordinary trip

A casino ship moored in international waters off Port Richey near Tampa, Florida, was ready to welcome customers brought by a shuttle boat that makes regular trips to and from the Tropical Breeze Casino vessel. One group of customers would never make it that far: Their shuttle suddenly turned into a horrific ball of fire. Fortunately, the 14 crew members and all but one of the 36 passengers survived the blast. One woman was taken to the hospital and died there.

A good decision

When the captain of the shuttle detected the first spark, he quickly turned the boat around, headed back toward Port Richey and beached the vessel near shore in eight to 10 feet of water. The passengers would have to jump off the burning boat, but the captain realized they could not stay long in the water: The temperature was about 59 degrees, cold enough that prolonged submersion could have caused hypothermia. A spokeswoman for the casino boat company acknowledged that if the shuttle had continued into deeper water, the results might have been tragic.

Taking care of passengers

Casino boats also operate off the coast of South Carolina, as do many other kinds of vessels, including deep sea fishing boats, charter boats and cruise ships. An attorney experienced with maritime law will tell you that owners and operators have a duty to operate their vessels properly, exercise care for their passengers and issue warnings of any possible dangers that might arise. In the case of the burning casino shuttle, it appears many lives were saved by the quick action of the captain.

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