An Alnwick man has spoken of the terrifying moments when he realised there was a fire on board the ferry he and his family were travelling on.
The blaze broke out at about 10.45 last night on the DFDS cruise ferry, the MS King Seaways, which was heading for Amsterdam. It was 30 miles off Flamborough Head at the time.
It was forced to turn back and RAF helicopters, including one from RAF Boulmer, were involved in the rescue of six people, airlifting five crew members and one passenger to hospital.
Colyn Pentleton, who runs the Farm Bakery in Amble, was on board with his family, celebrating his wife Christine’s 42nd birthday.
He said he left their two children, daughter Jasmine, 18, and son Jamie, 16, in the nightclub while he went to the toilet.
At that point, the fire alarms sounded and he realised the family was separated.
“That was the scariest part - we were in two separate rooms and if anything like that happens, you always want your family close to you. We needed to be back together,” Colyn, 43, told the Gazette.
“You could smell the smoke in the main stairwell and see it in the air, it stuck in the back of your throat. Everyone jumped into action - the crew were very professional,” said Colyn.
Thankfully, he family were reunited and they headed out on deck.
“There was not really any panic on board. It was freezing cold outside and there were kids in pyjamas - they needed to get back inside.
“I knew we were heading back because I have GPS on my watch and I could tell we were going the wrong way - we were heading west.
“It was all very organised but you tell it was serious the way some of the crew were sweating, working really hard.
“It was never The Poseidon Adventure, but I’m glad we are all safe and well. My wife’s certainly had a birthday to remember!”
The ferry, which had 946 passengers and 127 crew, returned to North Shields in the early hours.
The fire is believed to have started in a cabin and an investigation is under way.
Two men have been arrested, a 26-year-old on suspicion of arson and a 28-year-old on suspicion of affray.
A member of the Humber Coastguard said the six people who were airlifted were taken to Scarborough Hospital suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation and have since been discharged. The five crew members had been involved in fighting the fire, while the passenger was a pregnant woma.
About 15 passengers and eight staff were checked on the ferry by a doctor, DFDS said in a statement, adding the fire had started at about 22:45 GMT on Saturday but had been extinguished within 15 minutes.