Dec 29 2013
Police are questioning passengers on board a ferry after a fire in a cabin room 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 fire broke out 30 miles from land around 11pm last night.
Gert Jakobsen, a spokesman for ferry operator DFDS Seaways, said police are now in control of the King Seaways cruise ferry and speaking with passengers and crew about the incident.
A passenger suspected of starting the fire was detained on board by ship staff while it sailed back to the Tyneside port this morning, police said.
Mr Jakobsen said he hopes the 946 passengers who were on their way to Amsterdam will be able to leave the ship shortly.
"The ship has arrived back in Newcastle and police are now on board and in control of it," he said.
"They are investigating the cause of the fire and speaking with senior crew members as well as passengers who were close to the incident.
"For this reason the passengers are not allowed to leave the ship.
"We hope they will be able to leave very shortly, around 8am."
However, he added that the ferry would not be continuing its journey and instead will wait till 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.
Earlier this morning Inspector 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."
Northumbria Police are now believed to be dealing with the incident.
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.