Staten Island ferry fire investigation underway on new $85M vessel

The Staten Island ferry that burned was brand new, launched earlier this year along with 2 others

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Friday, December 23, 2022
Staten Island ferry fire investigation underway
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The FDNY has finally been able to open the door to the engine room where Thursday night's ferry fire started and have confirmed the fire is out. Dan Krauth has the story.

STATEN ISLAND (WABC) -- The FDNY was finally able to open the door to the engine room where Thursday night's ferry fire started and some city officials are questioning how the fire started on a brand new ship.

While fire officials and the Coast Guard try to find an exact cause, the Staten Island Borough President is calling for a full investigation.

"As long as everyone's okay now, let's ask the hard questions, like what comes next," State Island Borough President Vito Fossella said.

With a backdrop of rain, snow, and high winds, the FDNY went on board the ferry Friday to investigate. About 24 hours earlier, a thick haze of smoke quickly filled portions of the ferry during the height of rush hour after a fire broke out in the engine room.

It caused more than 800 people to be evacuated in the rain and darkness in the middle of the Hudson. They were transferred to other boats and brought back safely to St. George Terminal in Staten Island.

But this ferry is brand new. It was launched earlier this year and there are two other new ferries that are still in service.

"What happened here?" Fossella asked. "$85 million is not chump change. We have to urge a full evaluation and analysis and investigation of the vessels because the last thing we want Is another 800 people or so getting onto another vessel and having something like this happen again."

Officials said the ferry's modern fire suppression system acted as designed by extinguishing the fire and locking the air tight engine room doors.

The captain dropped anchor after the fire broke out and called other boats for help to evacuate passengers.

"It was pretty surreal," said Alan Warren of NY Waterway. The company brought two boats and helped transfer passengers to safety.

"There was only a few instances where we had a wave or wake come through," Warren said. "Pretty much it was a pretty level step going front to front or bow to bow as we call it."

A lot of things went right Thursday night but the main question now is what went wrong.

Fossella said early signs point to the fire being caused by a leaking oil tank, but the official cause remains under investigation.

FDNY Fire Commissioner said she spoke with the Coast Guard and there's "no concern at all" about it being a problem on ferries with a similar design.

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