But on Monday, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point spokesman Kurt Conover said one female passenger taken there died Sunday night.
Conover did not release the deceased passenger’s name or cause of death but said she was one of the nine patients received at that hospital after the boat fire. The eight other boat patients sent to Bayonet Point have since been released, Conover said.
A spokeswoman for Tropical Breeze Casino, which operated the shuttle, identified the deceased passenger as a 42-year-old woman.
In all, there were 50 people — 36 passengers and 14 crew — on board the Island Lady shuttle boat when it caught fire shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday in a canal off Port Richey, Fla., according to Tropical Breeze Casino spokeswoman Beth Fifer.
The Island Lady regularly shuttled passengers to and from the Tropical Breeze Casino, an offshore casino boat in international waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Fifer told The Washington Post.
The shuttle was on its way to the larger casino boat Sunday and “nowhere near the casino” when it caught fire, Fifer said. The cause of the fire was not yet known, and the boat had no previous issues, she added.
“It’s currently under investigation,” Fifer said. “We’re not ready to make a statement.”
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office originally identified the boat as the SunCruz casino shuttle, which was its former name, Fifer said.
Port Richey Police Chief Gerard DeCanio told the Associated Press that the shuttle boat experienced engine problems shortly after its departure, then turned back to shore as a fire broke out.
“It looked pretty dramatic because the shuttle boat burned really fast,” DeCanio told the AP.
Video taken by local news stations and witnesses Sunday depicted a harrowing scene as flames and dark smoke billowed from the casino boat and frightened passengers leaped into the water.
Bakr Jandali, a local resident who saw the scene unfold from his neighborhood, called it “terrifying.” A video he posted to YouTube, shot from his home, showed thick plumes of smoke and sudden flames that quickly engulfed the boat. Concerned witnesses on shore can be heard shouting at the passengers, “Get out!”
“They didn’t have much time to decide whether or not to jump,” Jandali told the Tampa Bay Times. “The fire was moving fast. It was a hard jump.”
Jandali told the newspaper that his family and neighbors rushed to bring towels and water to the evacuated passengers, at least one of whom collapsed and vomited upon reaching the shore.
Temperatures in Port Richey on Sunday afternoon were in the mid-40s to low 50s, according to weather reports.
About 30 evacuated passengers took shelter in the home of nearby resident Larry Santangelo, who told the Tampa Bay Times he sees the boat pass by his home daily.
“It was so windy, and they were soaking wet,” Santangelo told the newspaper. “I just started putting them anywhere I could fit them — my garage, my fishing room. I brought them socks and more towels.”
Shelia McAfee told WTSP 10 News that she and other passengers jumped about eight to 10 feet into the water and that, once they reached shore, nearby residents rushed to help them.
“They were pulling clothes out of their closets to bring out to us to put on to keep warm,” McAfee said.
Her husband, Darrell McAfee, added: “I think this is the last of our trips on the casino boat.”