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Couple aboard burning casino boat share their story of what happened

Posted at 11:40 PM, Jan 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-26 23:40:03-05

PORT RICHEY, Fla. — 50 people jumped from a burning boat into frigid water two weeks ago near New Port Richey. For the first time, two of the passengers share their story of what happened on the ferry and the challenges many faced while making their way to shore.

RELATED: One dead, 14 injured after casino shuttle boat carrying 50 catches fire in Port Richey

Cell phone video captured Joan Gibbons' screams for help. 12 days later images of that day continue to consume her.

Joan, her boyfriend Juan Martinez and other passengers grew worried when thick black smoke started billowing from the boat.

They say the lady next to them asked for a life jacket as did a young man who could not swim. The couple says no one responded.

Gibbons says when the boat caught fire they quickly realized they would have to jump into the frigid water or die.

Martinez was one of the first to jump in so he could assist others.

50 passengers stumbled and struggled against the quicksand like bottom to get to shore.

RELATED: I-Team: Casino cruise company involved in deadly fire previously investigated dozens of times

In cell video, Martinez could be seen wading back into the frigid water to help other passengers ashore.

While Gibbons may have escaped physical harm the accident left her with scars you can’t see. She said she's not sure she'll ever board another boat.

She and Juan are among 9 passengers and an employee who have hired Morgan and Morgan and are seeking damages against the boat owner.

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