Caribbean Fantasy Fire Still Burning; Two Missing Pets Found Deceased

A local San Juan, Puerto Rico-based tug crew use a fire hose to cool the hull of the 561-foot Caribbean Fantasy ferry vessel that caught fire earlier a mile from San Juan Harbor, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. The Caribbean Fantasy's engine room caught fire, which began to spread to other compartments forcing passengers and crew to abandon the ferry vessel. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A local San Juan, Puerto Rico-based tug crew use a fire hose to cool the hull of the 561-foot Caribbean Fantasy ferry vessel that caught fire a mile from San Juan Harbor, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The U.S. Coast Guard continued its response Friday to the fire on board the 561-foot car and passenger Caribbean Fantasy which remains aground off Punta Salinas, Puerto Rico.

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Salvage and fire fighting teams were able to board ferry Friday morning to assess damage and stability of the vessel. The fire is reported to be still active and mostly contained to the ferry’s engine room.

Dive teams also are being coordinated to inspect the hull of the vessel for damage.

On Friday, a team discovered two missing pets deceased near the vessels disembarkation area. The Coast Guard reported Thursday that five pets were rescued during Wednesday’s search and rescue operation, but two pets were missing and believed to be still on board the vessel. The Coast Guard said it broke the bad news to the families this morning.

The Panama-flagged Caribbean Fantasy caught fire Wednesday morning a few miles off Puerto Rico while en route from Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, leading to the full evacuation of all 511 passengers and crew by the Coast Guard and other vessels. The ship grounded a few hours later approximately a half mile from shore.

A 1,000-yard safety zone has been established around the vessel.

On Twitter the Coast Guard called Wednesday’s rescue mission “one of the largest at-sea rescues in recent Coast Guard history”.

Ardent Global has been hired for the salvage, and is currently finalizing a salvage and towing plan for the Caribbean Fantasy.

The Coast Guard says salvage and fire fighting teams were able to board the vessel Thursday at about 5 p.m. to look for the missing pets. The teams were also able to close some of the fire dampeners for the engine room to assist in the containment of the fire.

There are no reports of oil sheening in the area or pollution around the vessel at this time, according to the Coast Guard. Booming has been deployed at the intakes for the Palo Seco Power Plant as a precautionary measure against potential discharge. There has also been 14,000-feet of booming pre-staged near Punta Salinas.

The Caribbean Fantasy Response Unified Command consists of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and Baja Ferries (owner of the Caribbean Fantasy).

Also assisting the response efforts are the American Cruise Ferries, Ardent Global, the Department of Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the National Response Corporation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Witt O’Brien’s, the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency and the Puerto Rico Fire Department.

The Panama Maritime Authority, representing the flag state of the Caribbean Fantasy, has sent a team to Puerto Rico to investigate the incident.