Passengers evacuated from N.S.-P.E.I. ferry waiting to get vehicles back

Officials say the fire aboard the MV Holiday Island ferry has been extinguished and the process of pulling passenger vehicles and cargo off has begun.

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One passenger waiting for his car is Luca McKenna, an Ontarian whose Maritime road trip went off the rails the moment alarms on the vessel started sounding.

“I freaked out initially, I was kind of worried,” he says.

READ MORE: P.E.I. ferry tugged to berth as work commences to ensure fire fully extinguished

He says he and his partner were on board the ferry after visiting family in Nova Scotia and a camping trip on P.E.I.

They were out on the deck taking pictures, minutes before the boat was set to dock, when the horn first sounded.

“I thought we were just coming into the dock but then a plume of smoke kind of engulfed us,” says McKenna. “That’s when I went: ‘Crap, this isn’t great.’”

The pair and some 220 other souls were evacuated without issue or injury, Canadian Coast Guard officials said in a Sunday press conference.

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McKenna he and his partner found accommodations on P.E.I. while they waited to hear what came next.

Northumberland Ferries Vice-President Don Cormier said they’re hoping to reunite the evacuees with their vehicles either Sunday evening or Monday. The company will make arrangements to ship them to those who had since travelled out of the area.

He says none sustained any “obvious” damage.

The ferry underwent a mandated annual inspection in May.

As for the extent of the damage to the vessel itself, that’s going to take some time to determine.

It’s believed the fire sparked in the engine room, but crews haven’t accessed the source yet.

“We have not entered the engine room spaces and don’t expect to do so until a thorough assessment is done on the stability of the ship,” Cormier says.

READ MORE: Fire continues to burn on P.E.I.-N.S. ferry, crossings cancelled for rest of weekend

Ferry service on the route has preemptively been cancelled for Monday, with hopes to get the remaining ferry back on schedule Tuesday.

McKenna says, despite the circumstances, the evacuation was not a terrible experience.

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“It was a lot of people coming together. Staying calm and doing the right thing. Nobody freaked out, nobody got hurt,’ he says.

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