Debris entering engine caused fireball which engulfed crew member on Wightlink Ferry

A crewman was engulfed in flames after a blaze broke out on board a cross-Solent ferry.

The engineer suffered burns to his hands and face in the incident aboard Wight Sky and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

It happened after the Wightlink vessel suffered a “catastrophic” engine failure, followed by a fire last September.

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said the most likely cause of the incident was debris entering the engine’s oil channels during a rebuild.

“The engine had been completely rebuilt and failed after five-and-a-half-hours of operation,” said the report.

“Debris could have entered the oil channels during the three days that the partially-assembled engine had been exposed to the elements.”

Wight Sky, with 40 people on board, was nearing the end of its 40-minute journey from Lymington to Yarmouth when the drama began.

“At around 21:30, the engineer went down to the forward engine room and heard an unusually loud noise coming from the engine,” says the report.

“The engineer, who was wearing a full-sleeved cotton boiler suit, was momentarily engulfed in a ball of fire and experienced intense pain.

“The master abandoned berthing and activated the vessel’s firefighting equipment.

“On the master’s order, the bosun made an announcement to inform the passengers of the incident and to reassure them that the situation was under control. The master then called the emergency services.”

Wight Sky eventually berthed at 21:42 and all passengers were safely disembarked.

The report says: “The ship’s crew attempted to make the engineer comfortable. Shortly after berthing, an ambulance with paramedics arrived on board Wight Sky and, after assessing the engineer, took him to the hospital.

“Although he was discharged from hospital after seven days, he was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The report says action has been taken by Wightlink and the engine’s maker, Volvo Penta UK, to address issues identified in the report.

“Immediately after the incident we agreed with our supplier, RKM, that major engine rebuilds will take place at its workshops rather than on board our ships.”

A Wightlink spokesman said: “Immediately after the incident we agreed with our supplier, RKM, that major engine rebuilds will take place at its workshops rather than on board our ships.”

Story by Chris Yandell for the Southern Daily Echo.

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