Captain of casino boat that caught fire says he’s no hero

All that remains of the Island Breeze boat shuttle operated by Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz after Sunday's fire. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
All that remains of the Island Breeze boat shuttle operated by Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz after Sunday's fire. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published January 18
Updated January 18

The captain of a casino boat shuttle that caught fire over the weekend in Port Richey says he’s no hero, despite quickly running his boat aground so that 49 passengers on the vessel could escape.

One of those passengers, Carrie Dempsey, a 42-year-old mother of two from Lutz, would later die after the Sunday fire that burned the Island Lady shuttle boat to the waterline.

"I was just doing my job," Captain Mike Batten, 37, told Dailymail.com, the website of the British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail in an exclusive interview. "And someone eventually died. I can’t put that out of my head."

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Batten told Dailymail.com that the Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz shuttle service that ferries passengers to a casino boat deep in Gulf of Mexico waters where gambling is legal, departed as normal.

"Nothing was out of the ordinary," he said.

But about 10 minutes into the trip he noticed that a motor was overheating. He went to check it out while a crew member drove and noticed a little steam, and returned to the helm to take the boat back to the dock.

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Soon after, he noticed smoke and sent crew members with fire extinguishers to check it out. They returned saying they couldn’t get to the motor.

Batten said he then quickly steered the boat to a shallow area to run it aground so passengers could get off the ship.

"It all happened so fast," he told the website. "What we did was the best thing we could have done, by far."

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