On Wednesday morning, the Coast Guard said it responded to a fire aboard the 561-foot Caribbean Fantasy, about two nautical miles north of San Juan Harbor.
The Panamanian-flagged passenger/cargo ship with 512 passengers and crew was en route to the Dominican Republic.
“It was like something out of a movie,” Maria Prensa, a 64-year-old Dominican Republic passenger, told the British Guardian.
“You panic when you see that. You’re in the middle of the ocean and there’s a fire. Imagine that.”
The mostly Dominican passengers included dozens of school-age athletes headed to competitions in Puerto Rico, including a cycling team, a girls’ volleyball team and a boys’ baseball team.
Gyno Funes – one of two mechanics on the ship, told the Guardian that he was in the control room when a fuel hose burst open and fire erupted.
“We were trying to extinguish it for two hours but couldn’t,” said Marlon Doblado, the other mechanic.
According to a coast guard spokesman, Ricardo Castrodad, the agency had started an investigation into the fire, although it was too early to say what would happen to the ship, that has been grounded.
The ship runs several times weekly between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.