Hundreds Evacuated from Staten Island Ferry After Engine Room Fire
Five people were injured and hundreds more evacuated after a fire broke out aboard a ferry traveling from Manhattan to Staten Island on Thursday evening, officials said.
The Sandy Ground, one of the Staten Island Ferry's newly commissioned Ollis-class vessels, was carrying 868 passengers and 16 crew members when the engine room fire started shortly after 5 p.m., FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Frank Leeb said during a press conference.
First responders from the FDNY and NYPD, as well as commercial tugs and other passenger vessels, hurried to the scene to assist the fire-stricken ferry, which had anchored near Bayonne, N.J. as firefighters battled the blaze.
Passengers on board the Sandy Ground received life jackets, and many were transferred to other ferries, including those operated by New York Waterway and Hornblower's NYC Ferry. “A decision was made to use other ferries to offload the passengers, as that was a safer alternative than putting them on to fire or police boats,” Leeb said.
Other passengers remained on board as the Sandy Ground was towed to the St. George ferry terminal in Staten Island.
The five injuries were related to minor smoke inhalation, and three of the injured people were taken to local hospitals, officials said.
The fire had been contained by the time FDNY responders arrived, Leeb said, noting that the ferry crew had sealed off access and injected CO2 into the engine room to stifle the flames. "The crew of the vessel was very quick to act, and they acted appropriately by notifying the Coat Guard of an emergency on board," Leeb said. "They were also very quick to make sure they sealed the engine room, evacuated the area and followed the protocol to put the CO2 into that."
Captain John Garvey, Deputy Commissioner for Ferries and the Chief Operations Officer for the Staten Island Ferry at NYC DOT, said during the press conference that all safety systems on board the Sandy Ground functioned properly and that the cause of the incident is unknown ahead of a pending U.S. Coat Guard investigation.
The 320-foot-long Sandy Ground entered service earlier this year as the second of three new 4,500-passenger Ollis-class ferries built by Panama City, Fla.-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group for NYC's Staten Island Ferry service.