Wednesday 28 September 2016

'People, children were screaming... Handbags and mobile phones were flying everywhere' - Terror of passengers aboard Irish Ferries boat hit by Storm Imogen

Published 12/02/2016 | 17:31

Chris Sawyer's blue van was destroyed in the crossing
Chris Sawyer's blue van was destroyed in the crossing

A man who was travelling aboard the Irish Ferries boat which suffered thousands of euro in cargo damage has spoken of his fear during the 42-hour ordeal.

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"People were screaming and children were screaming. I felt as though this crossing to Ireland was not going to go very well at all," he told independent.ie.

Chris Sawyer boarded Italian-built ship Epsilon at 530pm on Sunday evening, leaving Cherbourg en route to Dublin.

The sailing, which was due to make land in Dublin at 11am on Monday morning eventually arrived on Tuesday at lunchtime.

Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie

"Being a sailor myself I was surprised we actually left Cherbourg in the first place as the weather was quite bad and the sea was very rough," said Sawyer.

Thousands of euro of damage was caused to cars and cargo onboard an Irish Ferries ship after it encountered Storm Imogen.

The boat was hit by winds of a constant 60–knots with gusts of 105–knots at times.

Sawyer said that himself and his wife could not believe that the boat set sail and said they experienced "a very bad night" in their cabin on Sunday night before rising to the lounge area the following morning for breakfast.

"All of a sudden, great waves occurred and people's tables [ones which weren't nailed down] were upended and plates and food went crashing across the lounge," he said.

"From where we were thrown, we could hear the pots and plates in the kitchen crashing about. "

Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie
Photo: Afloat.ie

The UK-based couple retired to their cabin as they imagined that their passage would be more comfortable below amid the storm.

However, Sawyer and his wife suffered severe bruising that left them requiring hospital attention as a result of the rocking vessel.

"I was sitting on a chair holding on to the table and all of the sudden I found myself on the floor. I was thrown into the bathroom, breaking the door. I couldn't get up and the boat was rocking so much.

"My wife was stuck in the toilet as she couldn't move from where she was. I eventually managed to get up, deciding then that it may be safer to get up to the lounge area."

Sawyer told independent.ie that the passengers were given no instruction as to how to act or where to remain during this period. He said that the scene when the pair entered the lounge looked like chaos.

"We were in the lounge and the crew had replaced the tables [which had been knocked down]. All of a sudden we were hit again by the waves and one man was pinned down by the tables.

"Handbags and mobile phones were flying everywhere. All we could do was stay exactly where we were thrown."

Sawyer said a couple from Mayo pulled himself and his wife up to sit on a bench seat and "there we stayed for ten hours with our legs braced against a fixed table pole".

At the end of the arduous journey, the captain attempted to dock at the Irish shoreline but was unable to do so intially.

"The weather was still rough and he began to turn in circles. At every turn, I thought the boat was going to capsize."

"The captain displayed incredible seaman ship to save that boat.

"I don't want the captain to be the scapegoat as he came across on the tannoy with every instruction."

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