Two held over North Sea ferry blaze

Six people winched off ferry after inhaling smoke from a fire that broke out 48 km from land

 The King Seaways passenger ship. British police are questioning a passenger on board the ferry after a fire in a cabin room sparked an emergency rescue and forced it to return to Newcastle. Photograph: EPA/DFDS Seaways

The King Seaways passenger ship. British police are questioning a passenger on board the ferry after a fire in a cabin room sparked an emergency rescue and forced it to return to Newcastle. Photograph: EPA/DFDS Seaways

 

Two men have been arrested after a fire on board a ferry sparked an emergency rescue and forced it to return to Newcastle.

Two crew members and four passengers had to be winched off the North Sea ferry after they breathed in smoke when the blaze broke out in a cabin room 48 km (30 miles) from land around 11pm last night.

A 26-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson and a 28-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of affray, a spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said

Passengers began leaving the ferry this morning after arriving back at the Tyneside port. Some 946 passengers were on board the ferry which was sailing to Amsterdam.

Gert Jakobsen, a spokesman for ferry operator DFDS Seaways, said earlier that police were in control of the King Seaways cruise ferry and were speaking with people on board about the incident. He added that the ferry would not be continuing its journey and instead will wait until its next scheduled departure to Amsterdam tomorrow morning.

The fire broke out in a passenger cabin around 10.45pm and was extinguished by 11pm.

RAF helicopters from Leconfield near Hull and Boulmer, Northumberland were scrambled to the vessel along with RNLI lifeboats from Bridlington and Filey.

Andrew Dixon from Humberside Police said: “At approximately 11pm the Maritime and Coastguard agency informed Humberside Police that a passenger

ferry en route from Newcastle to Holland had suffered an incident whereby a passenger is believed to have set fire to a cabin.

“It is unknown if the fire was started deliberately or accidentally. As a result of this incident the person suspected of causing the fire, or the person from the cabin where the fire occurred, be it deliberate or accidental, has been detained by ship staff and the ship was returning to its dock in Newcastle.”

Mr Jakobsen added that he expects the injured crew and passengers flown to Scarborough Hospital to be released later today. A further 15 passengers and eight crew members were treated by doctors for smoke-related injuries on board the ship.

He said the company will try to help passengers forced to abandon their trip to Amsterdam find alternative crossings.

“We are very sorry for those passengers who have not only been affected by the fire but now by these delays. We are looking at how we can help them. “The cabin that was burnt is very damaged and there has been some smoke damage to surrounding cabins but the ship’s function has not been affected in any way and is safe to travel.”

According to the DFDS Seaways website, the 26-year-old vessel has room for over 1,500 passengers and 600 cars. It was renovated in 2006. It offers entertainment including restaurants, bars, a nightclub and a casino.

Passengers hugged family members in relief at the ferry terminal when they were finally allowed off, with some vowing never to sail again.

Julie Bell and Shaun Richardson, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, were on a weekend away.

She said: “It was like a scene from a movie, a chaotic mess, horrible. “It was terrifying and I won’t be travelling by boat again. I think I will stay in the UK from now on, it’s a lot safer.”

Mr Richardson said when passengers were told to muster on deck, it was clear some youngsters had been asleep in their cabins. “There were lots of children with no socks or shoes on. They must have just got out of bed,” he said.

PA