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A fire engulfed a boat off the Florida coast near New Port Richey, causing 50 people aboard to jump into the Gulf of Mexico.

"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.

Passengers evacuated to hospital were experiencing smoke inhalation and chest tightening, according to ABC News.

Nine patients were taken to the emergency room at Bayonet Point.

Pasco deputies were assisted by firefighters, Coast Guard personnel and FWC officers in the rescue in the Port Richey canal of the passengers aboard the shuttle that serves Port Richey-based SunCruz Ltd.

The fire department said that because the water wasn't deep, rescue workers were able to get to the victims much quicker. There were multiple people in the water.

Officials say an unidentified 42-year-old woman died after the fire and that 15 people were injured.

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 cause of the fire also remains under investigation, though authorities said they are eying the boat's engine as the cause.

"Once I realized they were soaking wet, every one of them, I ran upstairs and I started bringing down towels, blankets, clothes, socks - whatever I could grab out of my closet".

The 60-foot boat was headed to a Sun Cruz Casino boat, located three miles from the coast in worldwide waters for legal gambling.

The captain of the shuttle noticed engine trouble.


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