Florida authorities said the boat caught fire and all 50 passengers safely made it to the nearby shore after a rescue operation in the Tampa Bay area. "He said he noticed smoke coming form the engine room and turned the boat around", Whited told the news agency.
The shuttle boat caught fire about 4 p.m. Sunday, quickly engulfing the boat close to shore near residential neighborhoods.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office reported there were 50 people on board when it happened, but said all passengers were able to make it ashore. Conover said eight other passengers were treated at the hospital and released.
Jandali said passengers had to jump about 12 feet into chilly and somewhat shallow water. Some passengers had to be rescued from the water. All the passengers and crew escaped without life-threatening injuries, police said.
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.
In 2004, the NTSB investigated a fire aboard another Port Richey casino shuttle owned by Suncruz called the Express Shuttle II.
"If they were out any further this could have been a tragedy, certainly a different ending than this", Chief Jerry DeCanio said.
"Once I realized they were soaking wet, every one of them, I ran upstairs and I started bringing down towels, blankets, clothes, socks - whatever I could grab out of my closet". One person has died from unspecified injuries. A Coast Guard inspection two weeks before that 2004 fire failed to detect loose or missing clamps on the boat's diesel fuel lines, a problem later blamed as a precursor to the fire.