A fire on a North Sea ferry which sparked a major rescue operation when it was carrying around 1,000 people was started by a drunk passenger who was smoking cannabis in a cabin, a court has heard.
Boden George Hughes, 26, admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, during a brief hearing at Newcastle Crown Court, where his trial had been due to start.
The fire on the DFDS Newcastle to Amsterdam service happened at around 11pm on December 28 when the vessel was 30 miles off the North Yorkshire coast.
At the time Colyn Pentleton, from Alnwick, was on board the ferry celebrating his wife Christine’s birthday with their two children, Jamie, 16 and Jasmine, 18.
Six people were winched off the ferry by the RAF and helicoptered to hospital.
Hughes, who also admitted affray, pleaded guilty to arson on the basis that he was drunk, was smoking cannabis in a bong, and the fire started when his lighter’s flame set a pile of clothes ablaze.
He had altered his lighter so it produced a constant flame, he claimed.
Judge James Goss, the Recorder of Newcastle, will sentence Hughes, of Fulwell Road, Sunderland, in September.