A casino boat went up in flames Sunday afternoon in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida, with 50 passengers on board - and more than a dozen were rushed to the hospital, according to reports.
The boat was headed to an offshore casino ship, where gambling is legal, when the fire broke out just after 4 p.m. They said the boat captain realized there was engine trouble early on and turned back.
"What he did was he brought (the shuttle) closer to shore, actually nearly beaching the boat", DeCanio said of the captain's immediate actions, according to Tampa station WTSP.
The U.S. Coast Guard said that the fire happened near the mouth of the Coty River near New Port Richey, northwest of Tampa.
Rescue crews initially reported everyone made it to shore, but now say one person is unaccounted for.
Fifteen passengers had to be taken to the hospital. Cause of death is still undetermined. Some passengers had to be rescued from the water.
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The fire continued to devour the boat hours after it initially erupted.
All passengers and crew members have been accounted for. Some were able to make it to shore and treated by emergency personnel.
The Sheriff's Office, Port Richey police as well as other agencies are investigating.
"If they were out any further this could have been a tragedy, certainly a different ending than this", Chief Jerry DeCanio said.
At least 15 people are injured after a boat caught on fire, according to CNN. 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.
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