Belfast Telegraph

Cars crushed and lorries 'tossed about like toys' on Larne to Cairnryan ferry

Victoria Leonard

By Victoria Leonard

A ferry passenger has described how lorries were "tossed about like they were a child's toys" and said it was "very lucky no-one was killed" during a dramatic incident on the Larne to Cairnryan ferry yesterday.

Coalisland lorry driver and father-of-two Niall McErlean (43) spoke out after lorries overturned on P&O's European Causeway ship in adverse weather conditions during the morning sailing.

Passenger pictures
Passenger pictures
Passenger pictures
A crushed car is lifted off
Crushed vehicles.
Toppled lorries on the European Causeway, a P&O ferry travelling from Larne to Cairnryan

Dramatic video footage of the incident captured by Mr McErlean showed several large lorries lying on their sides on the vessel.

Other images from the scene showed lorries toppled against each other and cars crushed by the impact.

According to Police Scotland, there were 52 passengers and 56 crew on board, none of whom were injured.

However, the force said that a number of passengers had been "confined to their vehicles" due to "movement on the deck".

In a statement posted on social media, Police Scotland said that it was notified shortly after 7.40am yesterday of "a number of vehicles having overturned on the P&O European Causeway Ferry while sailing from Larne to Cairnryan".

It added: "A multi-agency response was implemented and emergency services attended Cairnryan Port awaiting the ferry.

"During a choppy sailing, there has been a movement of vehicles on the car deck and this has caused around six vehicles to tip over onto their side.

"We are able to confirm all 52 passengers and 56 crew on board are safe and well and no-one has any injuries."

Police said the ferry had "docked safely at Stranraer" with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, ambulance crews and Police Scotland in attendance.

In an update yesterday afternoon, Police Scotland said that all passengers had been "safely disembarked from the ferry".

The spokesperson added: "Most passengers were able to continue their journeys as normal, but a small number received support from P&O Customer Experience Team regarding onward travel or accommodation.

"No injuries were reported and the emergency services in conjunction with P&O would like to thank everyone involved in the recovery operation."

Posting on Twitter last night, P&O Ferries Updates said it appeared that normal service would resume on the route from 4am today.

In a statement issued yesterday, a spokesperson for P&O Ferries said: "We can confirm that an incident took place on the European Causeway this morning.

"In extreme weather conditions, a number of vehicles have moved position on the decks causing damage onboard.

"All passengers and crew are safely accounted for, there are no reports of injuries and the emergency services are in attendance."

Mr McErlean (below) said the ordeal was a "scary experience".

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I got on at 4.30am, it was running late due to the high winds and it was rough going across.

"It took a turn for the bad in the middle, the boat went into a big dip and that's when the wrecking started.

"It could have been a big wave, and when it came back out of it, that's when it did all the wrecking."

Mr McErlean said that some lorry drivers were "trapped in their cabs" during the drama that unfolded.

"There were lorries that had been tossed about like they were a child's toys.

"There were drivers on the bottom deck who were trapped in their cabs - at least three or four were trapped in their lorries.

"In front of my lorry there was a trailer with a lot of lemonade on top of a bus. There were two or three other lorries pushed into a corner.

"There were lorries on the middle deck with people trapped in them, but the bulk of the wrecking was on the other deck, where four were cowped."

Mr McErlean said that passengers were then ushered into the ship's reception area.

"It was a frightening experience," he continued.

"They're very lucky no-one was killed.

"The wind calmed down a wee bit after that."

He added: "When we got into port I was the first lorry off at 1.30pm.

"I had to continue with my journey - my lorry is okay, but my trailer was badly scraped and damaged."

"Everyone was well warned that the storm was coming in, and we were going out into the heart of it," he said.

The Belfast Telegraph asked P&O why the sailing was not cancelled, given the adverse weather conditions.

We also asked what measures were implemented to keep the lorries in place on the deck, and whether additional measures had been put in place due to the adverse weather conditions.

No response had been received to these queries at the time of going to press.

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