AN INVESTIGATION has been launched after a blaze broke out on a busy passenger ferry.
The emergency erupted on the Wightlink car ferry, St Faith, shortly after she left her base at Portsmouth, at 9am yesterday.
All the ship’s 52 passengers were evacuated to the rear of the vessel as flames engulfed a deck walkway near the ferry’s bridge.
Dramatic images, taken by Emsworth photographer Chris Ison, show crew members desperately fighting back the blaze, which belched out thick black smoke high into the sky.
The 47-year-old, who was making a day trip to the island, said he was shocked at how quickly the fire gripped the ship.
‘In about two to three seconds it went from being the size of a small bin fire to flames higher than the bridge of the ship,’ he said. ‘That was quite an intense moment.
‘The fire was right behind the bridge. The captain must have had quite a fright.’
Within moments, members of the ship’s crew were battling the flames with water hoses.
Mr Ison added: ‘Nobody panicked, everyone was very calm.
‘The staff clearly knew what they were doing in fighting the fire. I think we were in pretty safe hands.’
Firefighters stood by at the Fishbourne car ferry terminal on the Isle of Wight to await the ferry’s arrival.
A spokesman for Wightlink said the fire had affected an outside deck in a non-passenger area of the ship.‘
It was immediately put out by members of the crew and no one was injured. ‘Passengers and vehicles disembarked from the vessel, as usual,’ the spokesman added.
The travel firm said that an investigation has since been launched into the cause of the blaze and that ‘all relevant authorities’ have been informed.
Wightlink carries some five million passengers across the Solent to the island every year.