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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation M-18-013
Synopsis: 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 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. From its investigation of this accident, the NTSB identified safety issues in the following areas: • • Lack of company guidance regarding engine high-temperature alarms • • Lack of fire detection in unmanned spaces with exhaust tubing • • Insufficient preventive maintenance • • Insufficient crew training and documentation • • Inappropriate material and design of fuel tank level-indicator system On the basis of its findings, the NTSB makes safety recommendations to Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, LLC and the US Coast Guard.
Recommendation: TO THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD: Require fire detection systems in unmanned spaces with machinery or other potential heat sources on board small passenger vessels.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Await Response
Mode: Marine
Location: Port Richey, FL, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA18FM010
Accident Reports: Fire On Board US Small Passenger Vessel Island Lady
Report #: MAR-18-02
Accident Date: 1/14/2018
Issue Date: 12/20/2018
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: USCG (Open - Await Response)

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
Date: 12/20/2018
Response: On December 11, 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) adopted our marine accident report concerning the January 14, 2018, fire on board small passenger vessel Island Lady. Additional information about this accident and the resulting recommendations may be found in the report of the investigation, which can be accessed at our website,, under report number NTSB/MAR 18/02. As a result of this investigation, we issued four new recommendations, including two to the vessel operator Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz, and the following two recommendations to the US Coast Guard: M-18-13 Require fire detection systems in unmanned spaces with machinery or other potential heat sources on board small passenger vessels. M-18-14 Issue a Marine Safety Information Bulletin that addresses the need to use only approved material and components in fuel tank level-indicator systems. We also reiterated two existing, open recommendations to the Coast Guard, as follows: M-02-5 Require that companies operating domestic passenger vessels develop and implement a preventive maintenance program for all systems affecting the safe operation of their vessels, including the hull and mechanical and electrical systems. M-12-3 Require all operators of US-flag passenger vessels to implement safety management systems, taking into account the characteristics, methods of operation, and nature of service of these vessels, and, with respect to ferries, the sizes of the ferry systems within which the vessels operate. The recommendations to the Coast Guard are found on page 50 of the attached report. The NTSB is vitally interested in these recommendations because they are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate receiving a response from you within 90 days detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement them. When replying, please refer to the safety recommendations by number. We encourage you to submit your response electronically to