About 868 passengers and 16 crews were evacuated when a Staten Island ferry caught fire on Thursday evening. The fire broke out in the engine room of Sandy Ground, a brand new $85 million ferry, in the New York Harbor close to the Statue of Liberty when the ferry was headed from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island.
According to an eyewitness, the ferry was pushed to be anchored in new Bayonne in New Jersey as firefighters fought to put out the blaze. The witness, Sal Chatman Morando, who remained stuck on the boat for nearly two hours as officials fought the fire said people were first alerted to the fire when a man ran past him, screaming that there was heavy smoke coming from the mechanical room.
The crews released CO2 into the engine room to subdue the fire and then shut up the room to contain the blaze. “We do believe the fire is out,” said Chief Frank Leeb when the FDNY arrived at the scene. “But what we don’t want to do is open up that door early and give it the air that it needs and then wind up with a larger fire.”
Passengers were then loaded onto tugboats that took them to safety on other ships while others were brought to St. George Ferry Terminal. About five passengers and crews who inhaled smoke or were injured in the incident were taken to local hospitals to be treated. The FDNY said they will continue to monitor the heat in the engine room of the ferry to determine if it is safe for transportation again in the next 24 hours.
Morando said the remaining passengers who could not be offloaded to tugboats remained on the ferry while it was tugged by another vessel to Staten Island. He reported that people sat calmly on the ferry as they neared their destination and that officials told everyone onboard to brace up for impact as the ferry was pushed aground where it was safely anchored.