A major search for a baby feared lost at sea has been called off after police said they believe initial reports that an infant fell from a ferry were incorrect.
The land and sea operation at the mouth of Belfast Lough was triggered after a woman plunged from the Stena Line boat as it made its way into port from Cairnryan in Scotland last night.
The 37-year-old Belfast woman was rescued within 15 minutes and taken to the city’s Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment, where she remained in a stable condition today.
At the time of the incident it was reported that a baby had also entered the water with the woman, prompting extensive searches that began last night and continued this morning.
But after a complex police investigation, which included interviewing the woman’s family, officers said they no longer believe a child was in her care at the time.
A PSNI spokesman said: “Police have called off the search operation in Belfast Lough which began yesterday evening after a report that a baby had gone into the water with a woman who was later rescued.
“Following an extensive search operation involving several agencies and volunteers and after enquiries with the 37-year-old woman and her family, police now understand the report of a baby going into the water was incorrect.
“Police do not believe there was a baby in the woman’s care on the ferry.
“The woman, who is from Belfast, remains in a stable condition in hospital.
“Police enquiries are continuing.”
The incident happened in the lough, close to Holywood, Co Down, at around 6.10pm on a busy shipping route for passengers and freight between the North and Scotland.
Agencies, including the police helicopter, the Coastguard and the RNLI were involved in the search operation.