PASSENGERS on board a ferry at the centre of a dramatic late night crash into a pier have told how they were warned to expect a "hard landing" as they boarded the boat.

Crew members said they were have problems docking the Hythe Ferry before the accident, passengers have said.

Those on board were stunned when the Uriah Heep rammed into Hythe pier, injuring three crew members.

But some have raised concerns as to why they craft was still running after claims they were told to expect a "hard landing".

Last night ferry bosses said they were carrying out an internal investigation after the ferry careered into Hythe Pier on Friday night.

They also said that they could not comment on the claims while the inquiry on going.

But passengers have told the Daily Echo how they were told by crew there were "technical problems" and they were "having problems docking" after the ferry before was cancelled over safety concerns.

Police officers, ambulance workers, firefighters and the coastguard had to be called out to rescue passengers who were stranded on board after the incident.

Witnesses on board have said they saw the section separating them from the crew "just collapse" and one of the crew allegedly went through a window from the impact.

The incident brought ferry services in Hythe to a halt on Saturday with bosses saying they would be inspecting the damage to the pier.

Yesterday Hythe Ferry bosses confirmed they were running an internal investigation alongside the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

The crash left the three crew with minor head and back injuries, but questions have been raised by the passengers over suggested technical problems.

Daily Echo:

Passengers Pete Thornton and Richard Church (above) said the boat was travelling too 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 added: "He just went straight into the pier and it stopped."

No passengers were hurt in the crash and everyone was evacuated within 10 minutes by a smaller vessel while police, coastguard, ambulance and the fire service attended.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency sent Coastguard Rescue Teams from Southampton and Lymington, as well as the Calshot Lifeboat and Calshot Inshore Lifeboat to the scene.

Passenger Olivia Pearce, 23, a student from Hythe, said the crew were "absolutely amazing."

Olivia had planned to get the 8.30pm ferry, which she said had been cancelled.

She said: “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.

"I don't know why the first ferry was cancelled but clearly they felt the 9pm one was safe enough, although when we got on the crew said they were having some problems docking, I didn't feel scared and never imagined we would crash I was just expecting a bumpy ride but I'm not sure why it was running if they were having problems.

"They told us all to stay seated until they said it was safe to move, then as we were getting close to the pier they shouted brace before the impact.

"There was just this stunned silence, nobody moved because it seemed so crazy, but then we crashed. We were all shocked."

The front four metres of the boat were wedged under the pier towards its tip in the crash and the wheelhouse and electrics have been significantly damaged.

Peter Lay, director of operator White Horse Ferries said initial checks have found no other problems.

He said: "There seems to be no evidence of significant structural damage to the pier.

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

The firm has now chartered a boat from Blue Funnel for the rest of the week as its main vessel is being refitted.

Hythe Ferry operations manager Sath Naidoo confirmed that three crew members suffered minor head and back injuries in the crash but they didn’t require hospital treatment and said they were now recovering at home.

Services were cancelled on Saturday while officials and Hythe Ferry staff investigated but yesterday Mr Naidoo confirmed it would be business as usual this week.

He said: “The incident is now being investigated by the MAIB, we don’t know how long that will take and we cannot comment on our internal investigation or how long that will take.

“All three crew members are alright and it is business as usual. The ferry is still here for now but it will be taken for repair soon, we have a replacement running a normal service.”

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