Passengers have spoken of the dramatic moment their ferry crashed into a pier, leaving three injured.

Pete Thornton and Richard Church were aboard the Uriah Heep when it careered into Hythe Pier.

Police, ambulance and coastguard were called to the incident at 9.10pm last night which has cancelled services this morning.

An investigation into the accident has been launched by the Southampton-based Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

According to the MCA the vessel's three crew members suffered minor injuries and all 20 passengers were evacuated safely.  Other reports say there were 15 passengers on board.

Services have been cancelled today while officials inspect the pier and investigate the cause of the incident.

Mr Thornton told how the boat was travelling quickly as it approached Hythe.

The 66-year-old, from Hythe, said: "One of the crew said 'we're having technical problems so it might be a hard landing.'

“We were told to sit down and all stay sitting down until we were told to get up.

"We both said 'he's going a bit fast', and he didn't slow down."

Mr Church said: "He just went straight into the pier and it stopped."

Passengers were evacuated within 10 minutes by a smaller vessel while police, coastguard, ambulance and the fire service attended.

Three crew members suffered minor back and head injuries but did not require hospital treatment.

Another passenger added: "The crew were fantastic - their main concern was for the passengers."

The front four metres of the boat were wedged under the pier towards its tip. The vessel was freed within two hours.

The wheelhouse and electrics were significantly damaged but initial checks found no other problems.

Peter Lay, director of operator White Horse Ferries, said: "There seems to be no evidence of significant structural damage to the pier but we'll need to check that tomorrow.

"There's no evidence of damage to the ship hull or problems below the decks. The only structural damage is the wheelhouse."

The firm will have to charter a boat to continue as its other vessel is being refitted, Mr Lay added.

Daily Echo:

Olivia Pearce was among those on board

Olivia Pearce, 23, a student from Hythe, said she was glad to see the back of an unlucky Friday 13th.

She said: “I think the first thing to stress is that the crew were absolutely amazing, they did all the right things and made sure that at no point did the passengers feel at risk or in danger at all, they made jokes to keep the mood lighthearted and were quick to act as soon as there was a problem.”

Olivia had planned to get the 8.30pm ferry, which was cancelled after safety concerns.

She said: “Once we got on the ferry the crew said to us that they were having problems docking so we had to stay seated until they verbally said it was safe, that got a few confused looks from passengers but I don’t think any of us thought that meant there could be a crash, we just thought it could be difficult to dock and maybe a bit bumpy.

“Then when we were getting close they shouted brace before the impact and there was a sort of stunned silence, nobody moved and then we crashed. We were all shocked but everyone managed to stay quite calm – when we crashed there were a few swear words.

“I think we were all quite lucky because the bit separating the passengers from the front of the ferry where the crew sit collapsed in, and apparently one of the crew members had his head go through the front of the glass but he had avoided major injury to his head. They all just had cuts and bruises and told us not to worry."

Olivia added: “Everyone was quite shocked but we felt safe. It’s only really hit me now that it could have been a lot worse, but that shows how good the crew was at dealing with the situation.”

A statement from the MCA said: "The UK Coastguard was called at around 9.20pm and sent Coastguard Rescue Teams from Southampton and Lymington, as well as the Calshot Lifeboat and Calshot Inshore Lifeboat.

"Southampton Vessel Traffic Services, Hampshire Police, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, together with South Central Ambulance Service were also involved.

"Although the wheelhouse was extensively damaged by the collision, no-one was seriously injured in the incident, which has been reported to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.​"

Sath Naidoo, operations manager at Hythe Ferry, said: "It's wedged under the pier."

"It's just driven under the pier and it's stuck there at the moment.

"I don't know why."

Passengers were taken off the vessel safely but some crew were being treated on board, according to Mr Naidoo.

A South Central Ambulance Service spokesman said: "We were called at 21.15 reporting the Hythe Ferry had crashed into the pier.

"There were 15 passengers and three crew on board.

"Our Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) were sent to the scene and assessed all on board.

"Three patients have minor back and head injuries and at current time will either be treated and discharged on scene or may be taken to hospital."

The incident comes almost a year after the future of the ferry was secured.

The decision in June last year came after fears were raised by residents that the Hythe Ferry could be lost as it was plagued with problems which saw it run an ‘unpredictable’ service.

The issues saw only one of the three boats in service, as the Hotspur IV needed a new hull, while the Uriah Heep needed repairs as it suffered damage when it was in a previous collision in Town Quay.

Meanwhile the regular boat Great Expectations suffered mechanical problems after it came back on the water after being out of service for a month for its annual inspection.

Director of White Horse Ferries, Peter Lay met with Chris Harrison, chairman of the Hythe and Dibden Parish and Hampshire county councillor for Dibden and Hythe, Malcolm Wade, to thrash out an action plan.

The talks also included plans to have all three boats operational which saw the Uriah Heep and Hotspur IV repaired and back in service.

Hythe Ferry receives a £50,000 subsidy from Hampshire County Council.