Duck Boat Fire Rescue on the Thames River

Smoking: Passengers are rescued from the roof of a smoking London Duck Tours amphibious vehicle by a speedboat on the River Thames, close to Westminster

Smoking: Passengers are rescued from the roof of a smoking London Duck Tours amphibious vehicle by a speedboat on the River Thames, close to Westminster

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Duck Boat passengers jump into the Thames after amphibious craft sets on fire and starts sinking near the Houses of Parliament.

Clambering to the back of the boat, passengers frantically try to escape the billowing black smoke threatening to engulf them.Tourists including children as young as six are forced to jump overboard as flames erupt and quickly spread.

This is the moment a trip along the Thames came to a sudden and terrifying end yesterday.

A London Duck Tours boat caught fire opposite the Houses of Parliament just before midday, leaving those on board with no option but to evacuate.

Many leapt into the water, while others clung to the edge of the sinking vessel. Rescue workers and crews on passing tour barges helped haul 30 people to safety.

Three passengers, including a pregnant woman, were treated in hospital for smoke inhalation.

 Elissa Wood was on the tour with her parents, visiting from Australia, when the fire broke out at the front of the vessel. The Londoner said she noticed smoke pouring out.

‘We saw the tour guide and the captain look at each other like “this is a real problem” and then they encouraged us to put life jackets on and jump off,’ she said.

‘The flames were really hot and it was confusing. We weren’t sure what was happening so it was scary.’

Mark Jones, 35, of tour company Thames Rib Experience, rushed  his boat to the scene after hearing about the fire on his radio.

He said: ‘When we arrived some people were in the water … so myself and two other boats started retrieving people from the water. It was stressful because I was pulling the people in from the water and trying to manoeuvre the boat at the same time.’

London Duck Tours touts itself as the ‘antidote to the usual bus tours’, promising families an ‘adventure on both road and river’.

London Fire Brigade said the amphibious craft was 33 per cent damaged and that those who jumped overboard were lucky the tide was low. The Port of London Authority is investigating how the fire started.

It comes three months after 31 people had to be rescued when an amphibious tourist bus called the Yellow Duckmarine sunk in Liverpool’s Albert Dock.

A Metropolitan Police helicopters spokesman said: ‘We were on scene extremely quickly, confirming all accounted for and no-one needing rescue.’

Witness Harry Cole, who works for The Spectator magazine, described the events on Twitter as they unfolded, calling the boat a ‘flaming vessel of doom’.

Neil Withers, the fire brigade’s group manager, who was at the scene, said: ‘A number of people jumped into the water but they were soon rescued.

‘Fortunately at this stage it doesn’t look like anyone’s been seriously injured. People are clearly cold, wet and in shock but they were pulled from the water really quickly. That’s testament to the work of our firefighters, other emergency rescue teams and others who rushed to the scene to help.‘People were rescued by firefighters, the RNLI, police officers and other non-emergency boats were also nearby and assisted in the rescue operation.

‘The casualties, who are tourists, are being looked after by the London Ambulance Service and firefighters, who are keeping them warm and making them cups of tea.

‘The damaged boat was pulled away from the scene by our fire boat and a full investigation into exactly what happened will now be taking place.’

The brigade had six fire engines, two fire rescue units and its fire boat at the scene. The Port of London Authority is expected to investigate the incident. A police source said the nature of the injuries ‘could have been a lot worse’.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘Police were called at approximately 11.55pm to reports of a fire on a Duck Tours boat on the River Thames. A number of people were reported to be in the water at the time.

‘Several Metropolitan Police units attended including the Marine Policing Unit and the police helicopter. A number of people were recovered from the water. All 28 passengers and two crew members have been accounted for. The emergency services are in attendance at the scene.’

Trips depart from Chicheley Street, near the London Eye, before the amphibious vehicles launch from a slipway by the MI6 headquarters.

According to London Duck Tours, the craft used for the ‘splashdown’ were originally used for the D-Day landings in 1944.

The company offers a range of excursions including a James Bond Tour which is said to feature an ‘adventure-packed’ journey and passengers are warned: ‘You’ll be on the edge of your seat’.

Meanwhile a ‘Pirate Adventure’ is offered as a private trip. It is sold as a ‘truly fun and memorable way to mark that special occasion, and can be tailored for children aged seven years and up’.

The incident comes after a yacht on the River Ouse in York was destroyed in a blaze on Saturday night which led firefighters to evacuate city-centre premises nearby.

The fire happened at about 7.30pm. North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said when crews arrived they ‘were faced with a severe fire’.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus searched the boat for anyone onboard but there were not thought to be any casualties.