The engine of a vehicle that had just boarded the Cross Sound Ferry boat Mary Ellen caught fire Friday afternoon, forcing the boat the be evacuated as crews quickly responded to extinguish the flames and prevent further damage.
Orient Fire Department Chief Michael Prindle said the fire was out by the time firefighters arrived and he credited the ferry’s crew for their efforts.
“The car is a total loss,” he said. “It could have been substantial if the [ferry crew] didn’t act as fast as they did.”
The ferry was scheduled to depart Orient Point for New London at 2 p.m.
A witness who was boarding the ferry, Jessica Tollkuhn, said people were still boarding when the fire started. She said she was impressed with the ferry staff and the compliant passengers.
One Cross Sound Ferry employee was transported to Eastern Long Island Hospital to be evaluated for smoke inhalation, Chief Prindle said. The employee didn’t suffer any burns, he said.
“They were pulling cars off when I got there,” he said. “Apparently it was cooking pretty good.”
Chief Prindle said he was speaking to a veteran fire department member who couldn’t recall another instance where a car caught fire while directly aboard the ferry.
“Car fires are common, fortunately they’re not often on a ferry where it’s isolated like that with a lot of other vehicles,” he said.
The ferry did depart less than hour after its original time.
A representative from the Cross Sound Ferry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Photo caption: Passengers were evacuated off the ferry Friday afternoon. (Credit: Courtesy Jessica Tollkuhn/Twitter)