A female passenger has died hours after a boat shuttling people to a casino boat caught fire off Florida's Gulf Coast, forcing her and about 50 other passengers and crew to jump into the chilly waters to escape. Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point spokesman Kurt Conover said Monday that the woman died late Sunday, shortly after she arrived at the hospital's emergency room at 10pm. He said she had apparently gone home after the fire but became ill. Her name has not been released and a cause of death has not been determined. He said eight other passengers were treated at the hospital and released. Port Richey police said 15 people were injured in the fire and it was originally believed that no injuries were life threatening, reports the AP.
Port Richey Police Chief Gerard DeCanio said the shuttle boat experienced engine problems after leaving the dock at Port Richey, a suburban community about 35 miles northwest of Tampa. But as the vessel turned back, flames kicked up and people began jumping overboard into shallow water, according to witness accounts. One eyewitness tells the Tampa Bay Times that he saw people wandering about confused, wet, and cold, after they reached land. One woman collapsed upon reaching shore and vomited, he said. He said he took about 30 of the passengers into his garage to warm up and recover. "It was so windy and they were soaking wet" on what was an unusually chilly winter day in the Tampa Bay region.