Ferry fire on North Sea leads to two arrests
Two men have been arrested after a fire on a North Sea ferry led to six people being airlifted to hospital.
A 26-year-old was arrested on suspicion of arson and a 28-year-old was arrested on suspicion of affray.
RAF helicopters winched one passenger and five crew off the MS King Seaways, which was sailing to Amsterdam, when it was 30 miles off Flamborough Head.
The DFDS ferry, which returned to North Shields early on Sunday, had 946 passengers and 127 crew on board.
The six people who were airlifted were taken to Scarborough Hospital suffering what was believed to have been the effects of smoke inhalation and have now been discharged.
The five crew members had been involved in fighting the fire, and the passenger was a pregnant woman, a member of the Humber Coastguard said.
Graham Dawson, Humber Coastguard watch manager, added: "There were four doctors on board who were travelling as passengers, and they treated the people. Luckily it was down to just six people requiring evacuation."
Passengers have disembarked, following police interviews.
Ferry operator DFDS said the fire had started at about 22:45 GMT on Saturday but had been extinguished within 15 minutes.
Insp Andrew Dixon of Humberside Police said the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) had called them at about 23:00 GMT and had said a passenger was "believed to have set fire to a cabin".
"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," he added.
Some 15 passengers and eight staff were checked on the ferry by a doctor, DFDS said.
End Quote Steven Basford Passenger
Obviously people had had a lot to drink - it's a bit of a party boat”
DFDS said it was doing "everything to help" passengers complete their journey from Newcastle.
It said it was organising free alternative travel arrangements with another ferry operator departing from Hull on Monday 30 December - with free accommodation on Sunday night on the MS King Seaways before a coach transfer to Hull.
"If passengers opt to cancel their travel arrangements and make alternative arrangements they will be fully refunded with the option to re-book at a later date for no extra charge," the operator added.
Steven Basford, who had been travelling to Amsterdam with his partner to celebrate the new year, described his experience of the fire alarm.
"We were told to evacuate outside the ship and when we got outside they asked us to converge around the lifeboats.
"The fire was on our floor but on the other side of the ship. When we climbed up to the communal area we could see the smoke. It wasn't thick but it was definitely noticeable."
The 28-year-old, from Northumberland, added that although "people were generally pretty calm", a fight had broken out between two male passengers during the evacuation.
"Obviously people had had a lot to drink - it's a bit of a party boat. Two big blokes started brawling," he said.
Karl McMurrough, from Pennywell, Sunderland, was also among the passengers.
The 18-year-old said: "We all got rushed on to the deck, there were helicopters, kids squealing, life jackets.
"They were telling us to keep calm but they weren't giving us any information."
And, when asked about passengers fighting, he said: "There were a few people going wild - no-one knew what was going on.
"I'm never going on a boat again, I'm horrified."
A DFDS spokesman said the cabin that was burnt was "very damaged" and there had been some smoke damage to surrounding cabins, "but the ship's function has not been affected in any way and is safe to travel".
The MCA said it would survey the vessel for any lasting damage.
DFDS runs a daily 17:00 GMT service from North Shields, arriving in Ijmuiden, the Netherlands, at 08:30 GMT (09:30 local time).