At least four people were reportedly injured Wednesday morning after a fire broke out aboard a ferry boat that was carrying more than 500 passengers off the coast of Puerto Rico. Among the injured were two women, a man and a child, who were all being treated in a local emergency room after the ship docked safely following a full evacuation. There were no immediate reports of any deaths.
The fire on the Caribbean Fantasy ferry started in the ship's engine room when the sea craft coming from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic was about one mile away from its finals destination of San Juan, according to a statement from the ferry's parent company, America Cruise Ferries. Once ignited, the fire began to spread to other areas of the ship, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, prompting authorities to evacuate all 512 passengers to San Juan. Twenty-six crew members were on board, as well.
The mechanical issue is just the latest setback for Caribbean Fantasy, which has been plagued over the past few years with multiple substandard cleanliness ratings from the Centers for Disease Control in addition to having one of its ferries busted for carrying drugs.
In March of 2015 federal law enforcement found $46,000 worth of heroin hidden in a van on a Caribbean Fantasy ferry traveling from the Dominican Republic, local news outlet Dominican Today reported at the time. While Caribbean Fantasy was neither implicated in nor charged for the drug bust, it was likely not the type of public relations the company's owners and operators wanted.
In May of 2013 the Caribbean Fantasy ferry was one of six ships given a failing grade by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vessel Sanitation Program (CDC VSP), Travel Weekly reported. That set the stage for another CDC VSP violation nearly two years later in April 2015, when the Caribbean Fantasy failed an additional CDC VSP inspection, reported Travel Pulse.
The ship also failed inspection Jan. 24, 2015, receiving a score just one point shy of the minimum passing score of 85. According to online trade publication Cruise Critic, in that instance the Caribbean Ferry was cited for "improperly cleaned stove-tops and a substance that appeared to be mold on the ice shields," among other violations.
In comparison, sanitation violations committed by a ship operated by separate company — Silversea Cruises’ Silver Shadow — included improper food storage temperatures and records, sneeze guards that failed to fully protect food items on a buffet, and food-service items improperly stored in a location where they could be exposed to dust or other contamination. Those violations provide an indication of what the CDC VSP looks for upon the impromptu inspections.