Staten Island Ferry engine fire prompts passenger evacuation

December 26, 2022

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly 900 passengers and crew members were evacuated from a ferry bound for Staten Island from Manhattan after the vessel’s engine room caught fire and billowed smoke over the upper New York Bay, authorities said Friday.

Five people were injured in Thursday’s blaze, with three going to the hospital with unspecified minor injuries, the New York Fire Department said at a news conference.

Rescue units responded shortly after 5 p.m. to get the passengers to safety, with some wearing life preservers as they were transferred to other vessels.

The Sandy Ground was temporarily anchored near Bayonne, New Jersey, as passengers were transferred, the NYC Department of Transportation said. A spokesperson for NY Waterway said one of its ferries assisted with the evacuation.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which also took part in the rescue, evacuated the passengers to the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island. The ferry’s crew members were also taken off the boat.

There were approximately 868 people on the vessel, the Sandy Ground, with an additional 16 crew members, Deputy Assistant Fire Chief Frank Leeb told a news conference.

The department will wait at least 24 hours and monitor temperatures before entering the engine room to determine whether the fire is completely extinguished, Leeb said. The blaze was contained to the ship’s engine room and stack, the fire department said.

Leeb credited the ship’s crew with quickly notifying the Coast Guard. “They were also very quick to make sure that they sealed the engine room, evacuated the area” and injected CO2 into the room to remove the oxygen, Leeb said.

Officials said the cause of the fire remained under investigation.