Passenger arrested after helicopter rescue from North Sea ferry fire

Six or seven people winched off ferry travelling to Netherlands and taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation

A passenger suspected of starting a fire on board a ferry in the North Sea sparking an emergency evacuation has been detained by ship staff, Humberside police said.

Four crew members and two passengers had to be winched off a North Sea ferry and taken to hospital after they breathed in smoke when the fire broke out 30 miles from land on Saturday night.

In all 23 people suffered smoke-related injuries, a spokeswoman for the ferry operator DFDS Seaways said.

Inspector Andrew Dixon said it was unclear whether the fire was started deliberately.

“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.”

The DFDS spokeswoman said 946 passengers and 127 crew members were on board the King Seaways, which was en route from Newcastle to Amsterdam.

“Fifteen passengers and eight crew members are reported to have suffered from smoke-related injuries,” she said.

“They have been checked by a doctor on board, and two passengers and four crew members have been taken ashore by helicopter for further medical assistance at a local hospital in the UK.

“We will ensure that passengers and crew affected by the incident will be offered psychological assistance as well as other assistance that might be needed.”

The injured were airlifted by a crew from RAF Leconfield to Scarborough hospital. They were not believed to be seriously hurt.

The ferry turned back to its departure port, where the damage would be assessed, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.

A second helicopter, from RAF Boulmer, Northumberland, was stood down after tracking the vessel in case more people need to be rescued.

“All helicopters and life boats involved have been stood down, however Humber coastguard is in constant contact with the ferry and an RAF helicopter is on stand-by should it need further assistance,” Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman Jo Rawlings said.

The fire broke out in an accommodation area of the MS King Seaways ferry, operated by DFDS between North Shields and IJmuiden in the Netherlands.

“Thankfully the weather in the area is good. We haven’t got any problems out in the North Sea with weather tonight,” said helicopter Sqadron Leader Dave Webster.

“Winching from any large vessel is always demanding … But we train for this every day, so thankfully it’s almost second nature to the crews to be out doing this kind of activity.

The rescue operation was being co-ordinated by the Humber coastguard and the RNLI said two lifeboats, from Bridlington and Filey, had been launched to assist. The initial call for help came at 10.40pm on Saturday night as the vessel was 30 miles east of Flamborough Head.

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