Dozens escape casino shuttle boat off Florida's Gulf coast
Tampa (US): First there were shouts, then screams and then black smoke billowing into sunny Florida skies as a shuttle boat used to carry patrons to a casino ship offshore rapidly became engulfed in flames.
But all of the crew and dozens of passengers safely escaped by jumping overboard into chilly waters on an unusually cold winter day on the Gulf Coast.
Fire belched from the shuttle boat yesterday as it was heading out on one of its regular runs to a casino ship when the crew decided to turn around, said Port Richey Police Chief Gerard DeCanio.
He said the shuttle boat was close to shore near residential neighborhoods when it experienced engine problems after leaving the dock at Port Richey, a suburban community about 35 miles (55 kilometers) northwest of Tampa, said DeCanio.
But as the vessel turned back, flames kicked up and people began jumping overboard into shallow water, according to witness accounts.
Fifteen people complaining of chest pain, smoke inhalation and other minor injuries were taken to the hospital to be checked, authorities said, adding no injuries were life-threatening.