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Probe launched into ferry crash

An investigation will look into how a ferry carrying 320 passengers hit a harbour wall as it made its way into the English Channel.

Four people were taken to hospital with minor injuries after passengers and crew were evacuated from the Dover Seaways ship which hit the dock as it left the harbour for the 8am crossing to Dunkirk today, Port of Dover officials confirmed.

Passengers posted pictures on Twitter and Facebook showing upturned chairs and shop stock strewn across the floor, a disabled woman was reportedly knocked unconscious, while others likened the incident to the sinking of the Titanic.

Keith Etherton, 54, and his wife Silvia, 51, who were on board the ferry when the incident happened, told Kent Online that they were thrown across the deck just moments after the ferry started its journey.

The couple, who were on their way to visit friends in Germany, said it took around half an hour to get off the ship and that they had decided to take another ferry from Dover to Calais to continue their trip.

Mr Etherton said: "It was like Titanic hitting the iceberg because it crashed into the wall.

"There was only going to be one winner - and that was the wall."

He added: "I was on the rear part of the ship on the top deck and my wife was on another part of the deck. We had actually left four minutes earlier than expected.

Passenger Joan Tiernan tweeted: "On DFDS ferry. Just crashed into harbour wall. Back in Dover."

She later added: "On Ferry. Car reg bingo now. Shop looks like it's been ram-raided. Disabled woman knocked unconscious."

South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) attended the scene shortly after 8.15am and treated people at the port for "bumps and bruises".

Four adults were taken to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent, as a precautionary measure, although none were believed to have suffered life-threatening or serious injuries, a spokesman said.

Sea conditions in the English Channel were slight to moderate and visibility was good just before the ferry set off on its journey, the Port said.

The Port of Dover, which is carrying out its own investigation, said it was likely that the Marine Accident Investigation Branch would also be looking into the incident which was "normal procedure".

A spokeswoman said the Port and Dover Seaways had immediately put emergency plans into practice to ensure the safety of those on board.

She said: "Our first priority is always to ensure safety of all those who use the port.

"Thankfully incidents whilst relatively rare are always professionally and rapidly dealt with."

She added: "The vessel, Dover Seaways, is safely berthed in the Eastern Docks. We praise all concerned for their swift response.

"Naturally, the incident will be subject to our own internal investigation and that of the appropriate statutory authorities."

DFDS said passengers who wished to continue their journey had been accommodated on other DFDS Seaways ferries.

A spokeswoman said the ferry was being assessed for repairs but could not say how bad the damage was or when the ship was expected to sail again.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) spokeswoman said it had been informed of the incident but that it was being dealt with by Dover Port.

She said the MCA was in consultation with a surveyor who would be assessing the damage to the ferry today.

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