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Casino Boat Fire Claims Life a Life off the Coast of New Port Richey


When ships catch fire, it doesn’t matter how far they are from the coast. A boat of any size can become a deadly inferno quickly, and passengers often have nowhere to turn and nowhere to escape. This is unfortunately exactly what happened just a couple weeks ago right off the coast of New Port Richey, Florida, a small community located on Florida’s gulf coast.

What Happened? 

Tampa Bay Times reports that the fire spread rapidly, and the crew was unable to stop it, even using an onboard fire extinguisher. The boat – The Island Lady – was used to take passengers from shore to an offshore casino boat in international waters. There are a lot of these operations in Florida, because gambling is legal in international waters. On their way back to shore, the boat caught fire, leaving passengers with a dangerous choice – stay and die or jump into freezing cold, shallow water.

The ship got within about 100 yards of the shore. The water was so shallow that passengers had to jump from about 12 feet and land in waist-deep water. They then walked through heavy, dense mud and water to get to land.

Victim Identified as 42-year-old from Lutz 

The mother victim was a mother of two who lived in Lutz, a neighboring town on Florida’s gulf coast. She was taken to the hospital, where she later died from her injuries.

Investigating Boat Fires 

There are a lot of agencies and organizations that investigate boat fires, depending on where they take place. Since this fire happened just off the shore, the local Sheriff’s Department will be involved. Likewise, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board will likely be involved in determining how the boat caught fire, as well as reviewing the actions taken by crew once it was ablaze.

Common Reasons for Boat Fires 

Many boat fires are caused by engine problems, poor maintenance, or improper chemical handling. Among a few of the common causes are:

  • Surrounding Fires: Something nearby catches fire, usually while in the harbor and docked.
  • Electrical Reasons: Just like jump starting a car, you can quickly cause a serious fire if you reverse the positive and negative terminals. Crossing cables can cause a battery to overheat and lead to a very rapid smoke buildup and eventually fire.
  • Engine Problems: Boat engines must be cooled just like cars. Boats typically use some form of raw water intake system, through which the engine is cooled by sea water. If the filters become clogged or the pump is defective, it can lead to a serious engine fire. In some cases, running aground in shallow water can also lead to extra strain on the engine and lead to fires.
  • Battery Failure: On older boats (over 10 years old), torn or frayed wires, poor electrical connections, or battery leaks can all lead to battery failure and fires.
  • Onboard Issues: For larger passenger ships, there can be a lot of non-mechanical reasons for fires, such as smoking, open fires, and cleaning supplies being left in hot, improper storage containers.

Florida Offshore Injuries 

When someone is seriously injured or killed in a boat fire, it can be challenging to determine the causes. An experienced maritime injury lawyer can help make sense of the chaos and confusion and help you better understand your rights under state and federal law. Michael F. Guilford, P.A. has over 30 years of experience helping injured people find justice and compensation. Call or visit our firm online to learn more and schedule a free confidential consultation today.



  • American Association for Justice
  • Florida Justice Association
  • Bar Register Preeminent Lawyers
  • American Association for Justice

It's Your Time To Win

Contact the Law Offices of Michael F. Guilford, P.A. for a free initial consultation with Michael Guilford. Flexible appointment times are available. If you can't come to us, we will come to you. Call toll free 866-473-2636 or describe your injuries in an email.

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Michael F. Guilford, P.A.

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