NEW YORK (PIX11) – Hundreds of Staten Island Ferry passengers were forced to evacuate after a fire broke out on the boat Thursday evening, officials said.
The fire happened in the engine room on the ferry near Bayonne, New Jersey, just after 5 p.m., according to FDNY and NYC DOT officials.
The ferry was en route from Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan to Staten Island. Just over 20 minutes into the trip, the boat stopped and passengers heard sirens.
“The alarms went off first, then I saw the smoke,” said passenger Anthony Black. “We asked one of the workers what happened. He said a fire. I looked and that’s when I knew it was coming from the engine room.”
Tugboats were brought in to stabilize the ferry and keep it from running aground. All the passengers were evacuated onto other boats and brought to the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island, officials said. More than 800 people were on board; one person was on a wheelchair.
“From one end of the boat to the next end of the boat. They didn’t have us cross anything. They just put the boats together and that’s it,” Black said.
Five people suffered injuries during the incident, including at least one crew member, officials said. Three of the victims needed to be taken to the hospital, but all of the injuries were considered minor.
A NY Waterway boat helped evacuate 558 passengers, the company said.
“Thank you to Captain Joseph Ajar and his crew, our ferry staff, and first responders [FDNY] for their quick work to put out the fire and ensure safety for all aboard. Many thanks to [NY Waterway] for assisting in safely transporting passengers to Staten Island,” NYC DOT posted on Twitter.
The fire did not spread beyond the engine room, and smoke damage was limited, officials said. Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operations Officer for Staten Island Ferry John Garvey said all the safety systems on board worked. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
Investigators will wait at least 24 hours to make sure the fire is under control before they determine if the engine hold can be opened to check if the fire is extinguished, officials said. It can be dangerous to go into the area if there’s any chance the fire is still active.
Staten Island Ferry service overall has since resumed normal operations.