On Sunday morning, October 18, 2004, at approximately 10:38 AM, a Suncruz Casino Express Shuttle boat caught fire only minutes after unloading their human cargo onto a waiting offshore gambling casino 12 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of New Port Richey, Florida.
After attempting to extinguish the blaze, which apparently started in the engine room, the crew of three leaped from the burning ship and swam to shore.
Port Richey and Pasco County firefighters arrived on the scene to find the vessel fully involved about 40 yards offshore, drifting into the mouth of the Pithlatchascotie River.
Firefighters soon realized that the fire itself would not be the first enemy to fight at this scene. Those rushing to the edge of the water dragging hoselines were quickly 'sucked down' into the mud and muck of this never used section of shoreline. Some were able to make it to a waiting Sheriff's Office Patrol boat that carried them out to the burning ship for the final fire suppression from on board the vessel itself, while others had to step out of their boots to free themselves. Stepping back into those boots with wet and muddy feet, the firefighters continued their relentless push out to their mission objective, and forcing the fire to submit to their hose streams, it was extinguished.
This was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult marine fires to reach and put out that we have seen here in a long time.
Thanks Port Richey Fire Department, Pasco County Fire-Rescue Services, and the Pasco County Sheriff's Dept. for a great round of teamwork.