Florida casino boat catches fire near New Port Richey

Fifty people were on board the Sun Cruz Casino boat shuttle Sunday afternoon, when the fire erupted as it sailed along Port Richey Canal, according to WFLA-TV.

The massive fire broke out on the coldest day of the year in Port Richey, which is near Tampa. "He said he noticed smoke coming from the engine room and turned the boat around", Shawn Whited, division chief with Pasco Fire Rescue, told Reuters. The boat's captain tried to return the boat to the dock but could get no closer than about 100 feet from shore.

The U.S. Coast Guard said that the fire happened near the mouth of the Coty River near New Port Richey.

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Fifteen people complaining of chest pain, smoke inhalation and other minor injuries were taken to the hospital to be checked, authorities initially said.

The woman's name has not been released and her cause of death has not been determined, the spokesman said.

The fire continued to devour the boat hours after it initially erupted.

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Horrified witnesses on shore in nearby homes watched as passengers jumped off the boat.

Jandali and his family, along with several of his neighbors, watched as dozens of passengers crowded near the bow as the blaze quickly spread from the rear of the boat.

The boat was carrying passengers to the Sun Cruz Casino boat, which was anchored in nearby global waters, authorities said. Some were able to make it to shore and treated by emergency personnel.

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Local resident Larry Santangelo, 57, told the Tampa Bay Times: 'It was so windy and they were soaking wet. Behind them, the boat was destroyed by the fire. One person is still unaccounted for, according to authorities.