Lawsuit filed against casino shuttle boat company after deadly fire

PORT RICHEY, Fla. — A passenger aboard the casino shuttle boat that caught fire in Port Richey earlier this month is suing the company that operates the boat for more than $15,000.

On Sunday, January 14, a shuttle boat operated by Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, was transporting 50 people to a casino ship when it engulfed in flames, forcing passengers and crew members to jump into the water on one of the coldest days this season.

One woman died from her injuries following the fire, over a dozen others were taken to the hospital for injuries.

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Deborah Jero has filed the lawsuit against Tropical Breeze for damages that exceed $15,000. The lawsuit claims that the fire and injuries passengers endured was a result of the company's negligence.

The lawsuit states that the passengers, including Jero, were forced to jump more than ten feet into water that was less than three feet deep in order to avoid perishing in the fire. Jero reportedly suffered "serious mental anguish and trauma from the forced jump."

The lawsuit says that the company was negligent in the following ways:

  • That Tropical Breeze had a duty to its paying passengers to maintain its vessel in a reasonably safe manner under the circumstances, including keeping all of its engines, tackle, appurtenances, wiring, machinery, systems, electronics and the vessel in good repair and free from any conditions that would present a hazard or risk of injury which [Tropical Breeze] knew or should have known existed in the exercise of reasonable care.
  • Tropical Breeze's second duty to its passengers was to warn of dangerous conditions which [Tropical Breeze] knew or should have known in the exercise of reasonable caution. 

According to the lawsuit, Tropical Breeze breached both of those duties by failing to inspect, maintain, outfit, clean and repair the shuttle boat. It goes on to say that Tropical Breeze allowed those hazardous conditions to exist on its shuttle boat and either knew or should have known that the boat was likely to experience mechanical or engine issues because of prior issues with similar vessels within its fleet.

The lawsuit concludes by saying: "As a direct and proximate result of [Tropical Breeze's] negligence, Deborah Jero suffered physical injury, mental anguish, disability, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, loss of earnings, loss of ability to earn in the future, and medical expenses."

Mary Stringini is a Digital Reporter for ABC Action News. Follow her on Twitter @MaryWFTS.

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