Marine Accident Report: Fire On Board US Small Passenger Vessel Island Lady, Pithlachascotee River Near Port Richey, Florida, January 14, 2018

This report discusses the fire that destroyed the small passenger vessel Island Lady on January 14, 2018, at the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River near Port Richey, Florida. The vessel, with 53 people on board, was on a scheduled transit to an offshore casino boat, the Tropical Breeze I, located about 9 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly before 1600, the Island Lady captain received a high-temperature alarm for the port engine’s jacket-water system. He notified the vessel’s operating company, Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, and turned the Island Lady around to return to the dock. During the return trip, smoke began filling the lazarette, main deck spaces, and engine room. The captain deliberately beached the vessel close to shore in shallow water. All passengers, crewmembers, and company employees evacuated the vessel by entering the water and wading/crawling ashore. The Port Richey Police Department, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Port Richey Fire Department, and US Coast Guard responded to the fire. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tarpon Springs Police Department, Dunedin Police Department, and Pinellas County emergency services also provided aid. Fifteen people were injured and transported to local hospitals; one of them, a female passenger, died in the hospital hours after the fire. Drug and alcohol testing was conducted on the crewmembers; all results were negative. No pollution was reported. Damage was estimated to be less than $500,000; therefore, a major marine casualty was not declared. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the accident under Title 49 United States Code 1131 (a)(1)(f)(ii) as an accident of recurring character because of a similar fire on board another of the operating company’s vessels, the Express Shuttle II, in 2004. ​The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determines that the probable cause of the fire was Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz’s ineffective preventive maintenance program and insufficient guidance regarding the response to engine high-temperature conditions, which resulted in the captain’s continued operation of an engine that was overheating due to a cooling water pump failure, leading to ignition of the exhaust tubing and surrounding structure. Contributing to the spread of the fire was the lack of fire detection in the vessel’s lazarette, which was not required by regulations and which allowed the fire to take hold unbeknownst to the crew.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; Photos; References;
  • Pagination: 62p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01690807
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: NTSB/MAR-18/02
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jan 4 2019 7:45AM