POLICE are continuing to hold two men following a fire on board a North Sea ferry that sparked a dramatic emergency rescue by RAF helicopters.
When passengers were eventually allowed off the King Seaways cruise ferry after it returned to North Tyneside, some vowed never to sail again after their frightening experience. A blaze, said to have been caused by a smoker, started in a cabin when the vessel was around 30 miles off the North Yorkshire coast at around 10.45pm on Saturday.
Two RAF helicopters scrambled to the scene and winched two passengers and four crew members to safety so they could have hospital treatment after breathing in smoke.
The ferry sailed back to Tyneside and most of the 946 passengers were allowed off while others remained on board to be interviewed by detectives.
Northumbria Police arrested a 26-year-old man on suspicion of arson and a 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of affray.
Scuffles broke out during the emergency procedure among passengers, some of whom had been drinking heavily.
Steven Basford (28), from Northumberland, who was travelling to Amsterdam with his partner Vic Liang to celebrate New Year with friends, saw two men fighting.
"People were generally pretty calm. Obviously people had had a lot to drink. It's a bit of a party boat. Two big blokes started brawling."
Gert Jakobsen, a spokesman for ferry operator DFDS Seaways, said: "We are very sorry for those passengers who have not only been affected by the fire but now by these delays.
"The cabin that was burnt is very damaged and there has been some smoke damage to surrounding cabins but the ship's function has not been affected in any way and is safe to travel."