Jump or die! Casino shuttle survivor hangs from edge of burning boat

Burning Sun Cruz Casino shuttle via New Port Richey Police

Hide Caption Show Caption Burning Sun Cruz Casino shuttle via New Port Richey Police

A person who was onboard the casino shuttle boat that caught fire off the Florida coast died overnight.

The extent of her injuries or the cause of death were not released. One person has died, a hospital spokesperson said Monday morning. "He noticed the fire coming out of the engine room, so he literally nearly ran the boat aground to the shoreline".

The shuttle boat caught fire about 4 p.m. Sunday, quickly engulfing the boat close to shore near residential neighborhoods.

"The guy that was in the water said, 'Man jump, jump, jump.' I was like, 'Man I can't swim.' So I was trying to climb off and I was dangling off the metal hanger in the front of the boat because I didn't want to let go to drown".

The injuries sustained were minor - smoke inhalation and chest tightening - and not considered life-threatening, according to the Pasco County Fire Department. Officials say 50 people were on board. The captain of the shuttle said he noticed engine trouble and saw flames coming from the engine room. He kept asking for life jackets, but was told to just jump. "The people were very cold and wet and scared, so it was a little hard to get all of them in but we managed", said Hashim.

Port Richey police said that a 42-year-old female passenger, who was hospitalized after experiencing "symptoms" on Sunday evening, later died, WFTS-TV reported.

Frigid air and cold water added panic to the rescue, but everyone was able to make it to shore.

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Larry Santangelo, 57, said he had just driven into his neighborhood when he saw smoke and fire and thought a house - possibly his own - was ablaze.

"All of us, my family and the neighbours, brought them towels and water", Jandali said. Local residents there offered them towels, socks and water to drink.

One man shot video of the burning boat as it neared the shore.

The cause of the fire also remains under investigation, though authorities said they are eying the boat's engine as the cause. Santangelo said he took about 30 of the passengers into his garage to warm up and recover. The captain turned the boat and headed for shore.

"It was so windy and they were soaking wet", said Santangelo, adding he anxious some would suffer from hypothermia.

The shuttle boat routinely carries people back and forth from the Tropical Breeze Casino Cruise, which is offshore because it can't legally operate close to land, according to authorities.

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