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National News Pembrokeshire West Wales

All passengers and crew evacuated safely from Fishguard ferry following engine fire

EIGHTY EIGHT passengers and fifty nine crew members were all evacuated safely, following a blaze on the Rosslare or Fishguard ferry on Saturday night (Feb 12)

The Stena Europe suffered an engine room fire, which broke out just after 2200 HRS off Strumble Head, leading to passengers being mustered with lifejackets, and being told they may have to abandon ship into lifeboats.

However, with the assistance of tug boats, the ferry was able to make it into Fishguard Harbour, where twenty emergency vehicles had been dispatched to assist with the rescue.

Helicopters from HM Coastguard and the Wales Air Ambulance were sent to the scene.

RNLI lifeboats were launched from New Quay and St Davids to stand by.

Experienced sailor Stephen Kearney and his partner Julia were on board an explained that the fire was serious, the ferry was filling with smoke, and that they were expecting to abandon ship.

Stephen told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “There was an announcement to the crew, advising it was not a drill and they should take up positions.

“Smoke began to circulate and I could see a lot of smoke from the funnel.

“Life jackets were issued and crew members assisted passengers with them.

“People were understandably nervous, but very calm and were looking out for each other.

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“It was clearly a very serious situation and I was preparing to spend time in the lifeboats.

“Luckily the fire was extinguished by a very professional crew, and that was not necessary

“The Stena staff were obviously very well drilled – and took all appropriate action which included issuing water and supporting people who were frightened.

Stephen added: “The staff actually were fantastic and interestingly, honest about the situation.

“I’m a sailor, trained in sea survival so I knew how bad this could have got.

Stephen said that in his opinion the weather played a part in helping to get the situation under control. He said: “In fact, if we had been in very windy weather, or heavy seas, you would be reporting a very different and harrowing story.

“We were all preparing to abandon ship, as the ship was filling with smoke.

“Luckily the fire was extinguished

“It was really serious,” he said – adding: “Crew were brilliant

“Julia and I are both sailors so we identified ourselves to take responsibility as necessary

“This was no little incident,” he said.

On leaving the ferry passengers witnessed a sea of blue flashing lights from the assembly of emergency vehicles from the police, ambulance and fire brigade.

By just after 11pm, firefighters were spraying water down one of the funnels to dampen down the fire on board.

Ferry operator Stena Line issued a statement on Sunday.

Despite the huge emergency services response to the incident they downplayed the incident, saying it was a small fire and that the damage was relatively minor.

A spokesperson for the company said: “At approximately 22:00 last night the Stena Europe was on route to Fishguard from Rosslare, when the crew were alerted to a small fire on one of the ship’s engines.

“The Crew immediately initiated the ship’s safety protocols to ensure safety of passengers and crew before quickly extinguish the fire without further support or incident.

“A short delay incurred whilst the area was made secure before continuing on passage to Fishguard arriving 30 minutes behind schedule.

“There were 88 passengers and 59 crew onboard.

“There were no injuries and all those onboard were disembarked safely.

“Damage to the vessel is minimal. It is now being removed from service while we undertake a thorough investigation as to cause of the incident, which will be undertaken in partnership with the maritime regulatory authorities.

“We would like to thank the local Welsh ambulance, fire and lifeboat services who deployed significant numbers of their resources as a precaution.

“We are sorry for any distress and inconvenience this has caused to our passengers.

“We have reached an agreement with Irish Ferries that all those booked to sail with us will be transferred to their Pembroke sailing.

“Or can be transferred to an alternative Stena Line sailing at a different port.

“Further updates on the vessel and sailings will be issued in due course.”