Port Richey Police Chief Gerard DeCanio said the skipper saw smoke from the motor and turned the vessel around.
The shuttle boat caught fire around 4 p.m. Sunday, quickly engulfing the boat, with the flames torching every inch of the boat except for the American flag at the bow.
Video, photos and witness accounts from the scene describe a horrifying several minutes as passengers jumped about 10 feet into water about waste high, then scrambled to shore. "The fire was moving fast".
Altogether, around 15 others were dealt with at neighborhood doctor's facilities for minor wounds and as a precautionary measure for hypothermia, police said. He said those escaping had to wade through waist-deep water before reaching land.
"We were terrified for everyone on board because they were jumping out very slowly", Bakr Jandali said. At least 15 people were injured, according to local officials.
A cause of the fire has not yet been released.
She says the mud was deep and silty, and people were starting to panic.
He was also anxious the wet people might suffer hypothermia, so Santangelo invited about 30 passengers into his garage. He anxious that some might suffer from hypothermia.
"They were absolutely frigid when they got out of there", Fossa said.
Once the fire is extinguished, officials will begin an investigation to determine the cause. A Coast Guard inspection two weeks before that 2004 fire failed to detect loose or missing clamps on the boat's diesel fuel lines, a problem later blamed as a precursor to the fire.
"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".
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