THE operation to haul the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer out of Loch Lomond has been abandoned for the day after the vessel slipped back into the water.

Initial accounts from the scene suggested that a rope or cable may have snapped as the historic ship was being winched on to the slipway at Balloch Pier.

A social media statement from the charity which owns the ship said they believed the problem lay with the carriage - the cradle on which the vessel was resting as it was pulled on to the slipway.

Video footage from the scene appeared to show at least one person being helped out of the water immediately after the incident, but John Beveridge, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, the Maid's owners, confirmed later that no-one had been injured, and that everyone who had been working on board and around the ship was safe.

Mr Beveridge said it was thought something snapped, resulting in the cradle sliding back down the slip, taking the ship with it. 

One eyewitness said: "It looked like a cable snapped and the whole vessel just slid back into the water.

"It was like watching it being launched in reverse."

The charity said in a statement on their @maidtosail Twitter account: "Unfortunately an incident has happened with what we believe to be the carriage and the ship is now back in the water.

"We will now secure her back to the pier to assess the situation. Thanks for your support today, updates will be provided once we know more. #maidoftheloch"

In a further update a spokeswoman for the Maid said: "An incident occurred, believed to be the carriage.

"The ship is being taken back to the pier at the moment while we assess the situation.

"There are only a couple of hours left of daylight so it won't be going back up today."

* Video footage by George Gerc Snr and reproduced with permission.