Published Wednesday, 09 May 2012
A search operation is underway in Belfast Lough (© Pacemaker)
A police investigation is underway after a woman and the child fell from a superfast Stena Line ferry as it made its way into Belfast Port from Cairnryan on Wednesday evening.
The circumstances surrounding the incident, which happened close to Holywood, Co Down at around 6.10pm, remain unclear.
The woman - thought to be the child's mother - has been rescued and she has been taken to Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment.
She was recovered by the pilot boat 15 minutes after the alarm was raised.
John McPoland, a spokesman for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, said two ambulance crews treated her.
"She had been in the water for a while so you can understand that with the coldness of the water she would have been hypothermic," he said.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said she was in stable condition.
A number of agencies, including the RNLI and the Maritime Coastguard Agency, and the PSNI and Irish Coastguard helicopters have been involved in the search for the baby.
The tragic nature of what has happened has saddened people and there's a real sense of shock in Belfast Port. While all efforts are being made to find the child, hope is fading fast.
Marc Mallett on UTV Live Tonight
Air and sea search will resume at 6am on Thursday, while a coastline search will also involve coastguard agencies.
On Wednesday evening PSNI officers boarded the ferry, which docked in Belfast Port, as efforts are underway to establish exactly what happened.
In a statement, a PSNI spokesman said: "It was reported that two people fell into the water from a ferry. One person was rescued and was taken to hospital for treatment for suspected hypothermia.
"The search operation is ongoing for the second person; this is believed to be a young child."
The Stena Line terminal remained closed on Wednesday evening and all sailings to and from Belfast have been cancelled.
Belfast Port was also closed to all ferry traffic but was later reopened.
Passengers are advised to check the 24 hour Stena Line Ferrycheck service for updates on 08705 755 755.
© UTV News