USCG confirms prior investigation involving 'Island Lady' shuttle boat

By Sarah Blazonis, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 5:08 PM EST

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed on Jan. 17 it investigated a prior incident involving the same Tropical Breeze Casino shuttle that caught fire this past weekend.

  • "Island Lady" crashed into a Tropical Breeze Casino dock on Oct. 22, 2017
  • Port Richey PD says it didn't learn of incident for weeks
  • Police chief: Building in crash deemed safe by building inspector

The Island Lady, the company's shuttle boat used to ferry guests to Tropical Breeze's casino boat, crashed into a dock and building owned by the business on Oct. 22, 2017.

“Instead of turning sideways to dock, they went straight in and hit the building and did some damage to the building,” said one area resident who only gave us his first name, Don. Don said he witnessed the whole thing from nearby Nick’s Park.

Port Richey Police Chief Gerard DeCanio said his department didn’t find out about the incident until weeks later.

“Our officers were out here inspecting our boat, and they saw the damage. What happened was they never called 911,” Chief DeCanio said.

He said employees told him they did report it to the U.S. Coast Guard. That agency was only able to immediately confirm the date of the incident and that the Island Lady was involved.

“You could hear the boards cracking and breaking,” Don said.

DeCanio said he visited the building about two weeks after the incident with the city manager and a building inspector. He said the inspector declared the building safe, but asked that the business not use the back room.

According to DeCanio, Tropical Breeze was asked to send in drawings and engineering reports detailing how it was going to fix the structure.

“It’s been a pretty well-run business. They’ve been running for quite awhile, and they’ve got their annual inspections. They do that through the coast guard, they’re licensed captains,” DeCanio said. “This is just an unfortunate accident.”

The Island Lady caught fire on Sunday, Jan. 14, forcing 50 passengers to jump into the gulf to safety. The coast guard’s investigation into the fire is ongoing, and there’s no information linking the two incidents.

We reached out to Tropical Breeze Casino for a comment. A spokesperson told us the business is no longer speaking to the media.