Port Richey casino shuttle boat fire victim’s family: I could see panic in her eyes

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Megan and Chad Dempsey adored their mom, Carrie. She was their world.

They loved everything about their mother. They loved her hearty laugh, her cooking and her scent as she held them close when she hugged them.

They loved her smile, beaming back at them during countless sporting events where she would cheer loudly from the stands.

The 12-year-old twins shared a unique bond with their mother, a powerful connection deeper than most parental relationships.

Carrie Dempsey was raising her children alone after tragedy struck the family years earlier.

When the twins were just 5-years-old, they lost their father.

The family would never be the same.

Amidst the grief, however, they found strength. They empowered one another.

Seven years later, the unthinkable happened.

On Jan. 14, tragedy struck this Tampa family once again.

Megan and Chad would lose their mother in a massive fire aboard a casino passenger shuttle in Port Richey.

Carrie was only 42-years-old.

She died that Sunday night and the twins would experience heartache and unimaginable pain all over again.

Their mother was gone. Their sole parent. Their hero. Their protector.

For Jules and Renee Deutsch, what happened to their daughter doesn’t seem real. She was there one moment and gone the next.

As Renee tries to talk about her daughter, she stops often.  The tears well and her breath catches.

“We know quite a few people who have lost children,” she said with a sigh. “It’s not a good club to belong to. It’s a horrible club to belong to.”

Carrie was young, full of life, born to be a mom.  Her children were her world.

How do you explain to a child who’s already lost their father that their mother is now gone?

These grandparents are doing just that – amidst grief, heartache and disbelief.

“Megan looks just like Carrie,” Renee told us. “I see Carrie in her a lot.”

Carrie’s mother and father were with her moments before she died on that fateful Sunday night.

When Carrie called them and told them what happened, they were shocked and worried.

But they thought everything would be OK.

The 42-year-old widow was on the boat when it caught fire and was forced to jump into the water.  Shortly after, she was rushed to the emergency room.

According to the family’s attorney, Carrie had a deadly reaction that night as she tried to escape the shuttle boat, engulfed in flames. As she lay in a hospital bed, she couldn’t speak.

But her eyes told the story to her mother.

“I could see panic in her eyes,” Renee recalled. “But then they took her away, and that was it. Which we were not expecting.”

Longtime Tampa defense attorney Steve Yerrid is now representing the family and plans to file suit against the casino shuttle boat company, Tropical Breeze.

“The house doesn’t always win,” he told News Channel 8 Wednesday during an exclusive interview.

Yerrid has one goal in mind.

“We’re going to do the right thing by these children. We can secure their college education. We can secure their future. We can give them the opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” the attorney said.

The children are staying busy.

They are active in sports, straight-A students and after completing homework each day, they love to sit with their grandparents, anxious to win a round of Jeopardy.

Megan sleeps with her mother’s pillow and blanket. Chad has plans to attend a Lightning game with friends of his mom.

They are doing the best they can as they long for their parents.

Follow Melanie Michael on Facebook

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