Port Richey casino boat fire: What happened before the order to jump

Pasco County

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The charred wreckage of “Island Lady” sits just offshore where Captain Mike Batten ran it aground Sunday afternoon.

Its burned-out hull is that remains from the inferno, which claimed Lutz woman Carrie Dempsey’s life and sent 50 passengers and crew scrambling to safety in the chilly waters off Port Richey. The dramatic scene was caught on several cameras.

To learn more about the chaos onboard the doomed Tropical Breeze casino shuttle boat, News Channel 8 visited Captain Batten’s home, which is located 12 minutes away from the dock.

“He’s not ready to talk right now” said his wife, Amy Foley.

Foley tells us the incident is very hard on him. “Everybody sees him as a hero, but he doesn’t feel like that right now,” she said.

Eddie Lohr said his step-granddaughter, who works at the casino, was at a snack bar on the shuttle boat when the fire broke out.

“So she ran down to get a fire extinguisher but the flames were too much for her,” he said.

Lohr said Captain Mike ordered her to put out the fire.

“Her thoughts was, the heck with this and jumped right overboard. She said the flames just came right out on her. I mean, it was bad,” Lohr said. “Boat’s on fire, he don’t send a crew member to get a fire extinguisher, to me.”

However, Mark Falcone, a family member who runs the casino operation tells News Channel 8 the captain saved lives.

“He did everything in his power to make sure everybody made it off that vessel safely,” said Falcone.

According to Beth Fifer, a spokeswoman for a Tropical Breeze Casino, after the fire started, the captain climbed into the engine compartment and didn’t see the fire, but he did sense trouble.

Fifer said he turned the ship around and ordered everyone to the top deck right before he ran the boat aground.

Follow Peter Bernard on Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Videos

Mortgage mess fixed

Thumbnail for the video titled "Mortgage mess fixed"

Veteran relieved after dangerous oak tree removed from near his home

Thumbnail for the video titled "Veteran relieved after dangerous oak tree removed from near his home"

New medical marijuana dispensary opens in Lutz 'There was a tremendous need'

Thumbnail for the video titled "New medical marijuana dispensary opens in Lutz 'There was a tremendous need'"

Politics On Your Side - January 19, 2020

Thumbnail for the video titled "Politics On Your Side - January 19, 2020"

Gasparilla invasion causes headaches for business and residents

Thumbnail for the video titled "Gasparilla invasion causes headaches for business and residents"

Sarasota Beef' O Brady's employee tests positive for Hepatitis A

Thumbnail for the video titled "Sarasota Beef' O Brady's employee tests positive for Hepatitis A"

Path of Destruction: Polk County Deputies investigate why driver of Jeep lost control

Thumbnail for the video titled "Path of Destruction: Polk County Deputies investigate why driver of Jeep lost control"

Bobbie’s Busy Bee Daycare theft

Thumbnail for the video titled "Bobbie’s Busy Bee Daycare theft"

Storm Team 8 Forecast: Sunny, cool and comfortable weekend ahead

Thumbnail for the video titled "Storm Team 8 Forecast: Sunny, cool and comfortable weekend ahead"

Jail escape attempt

Thumbnail for the video titled "Jail escape attempt"

Gasparilla: WFLA history since our very beginning

Thumbnail for the video titled "Gasparilla: WFLA history since our very beginning"

Gasparilla throughout its 100+ year history

Thumbnail for the video titled "Gasparilla throughout its 100+ year history"
More Local News

Latest Videos

More Local News

Trending Stories

get the app

News App

Weather App

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss