A British showjumper has been rescued from a ferry which caught fire near Greece on Sunday (28 December 2014).
Nick Channing-Williams (pictured top), who is based in Greece, was on board the Italian car ferry with his fiancée Regina Theoffili.
The 37-year-old rode for several owners in Britain, including Sue Hodgson and Brendon Stud, before he moved abroad seven years ago. He has also produced several leading horses.
A fire broke out on the vessel’s car deck, while the ferry was north-west of Corfu on Sunday. The rescue operation to evacuate the 422 passengers and 56 crew members was hampered by rough seas and strong winds up to 55mph.
Nick was separated from his fiancée, as she was airlifted first, but the pair have since been reunited.
“There were moments when I was absolutely terrified,” he told Sky News.
“When the flames are licking up around the boat and there’s no sign of help and they’re talking about sending a boat that’s going to be four hours away, you feel somewhat helpless.
“[The initial panic] caused a bit of a problem because the fire was basically cooking everybody’s feet. Everyone was in a queue to get on a lifeboat and with the heat just being so enormous, people just panicked.
“I didn’t even try to get on one. Regina and I stood upstairs and just hoped for the best — that someone would come and help us.”
Nick’s family have said they are “extremely relieved” to hear he has been removed from the vessel safely. His mother, Dottie, is hoping he will make it home in time for New Years Eve.
“We are especially hoping he will make it now because it will be an extra special celebration,” she said.
“We had been up all night and have not had a wink of sleep. We were waiting for news.”
All the surviving passengers have now been evacuated, but eight people are now confirmed to have died. Their nationalities have not yet been confirmed.
Italy has opened a criminal investigation into the disaster.