Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Coast Guard to Convene Public Hearing into Spirit of Norfolk Fire

Tug boats have the Spirit of Norfolk in tow under Coast Guard supervision while a Coast Guard Station Portsmouth 45-foot response boat crew prepares to escort the boat out of Norfolk Naval Station on June 12. The Spirit of Norfolk caught fire on June 7.

PORTSMOUTH — The Coast Guard is scheduled to conduct a formal hearing to consider evidence related to the fire and total constructive loss of the passenger vessel Spirit of Norfolk last June.

The Spirit of Norfolk was underway in the Elizabeth River for a two-hour lunch cruise on June 7 when, according to a U.S. Coast Guard 5th District Mid-Atlantic press release, at approximately noon, the captain reported a fire in the engine room.

Coast Guard, local fire departments, and numerous vessels responded to assist in evacuating passengers and with firefighting efforts. All passengers and crew were safely removed, and the vessel was towed to the nearby Norfolk Naval Station where firefighting crews worked to put out the fire.

The fire was fully extinguished on June 11 and the vessel was towed to Colonna’s Shipyard on June 12.

Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath, commander of the Fifth Coast Guard District, ordered a formal investigation to determine factors that led to the incident, the response, and to identify any other information that can improve maritime safety in the future.

The hearing will examine all aspects of the fire and subsequent total loss of the vessel, including, but not limited to, pre-accident historical events, regulatory compliance, crewmember duties and qualifications, mechanical systems, emergency response, and Coast Guard oversight of the vessel, according to the press release.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting a concurrent investigation and is joining the Coast Guard in this fact-finding phase. The NTSB will analyze the facts to prepare and publish a separate report.

The hearing is scheduled to take place starting Thursday, Jan. 26, in Virginia Beach at the Virginia Beach City Council Chambers on the second floor. The hearing will be open to the public and be streamed live each day.

The hearing is scheduled to convene daily at 8 a.m. on the following dates:

  • Thursday, Jan. 26
  • Friday, Jan. 27
  • Saturday, Jan. 28
  • Monday, Jan. 30
  • Tuesday, Jan. 31
  • Thursday, Feb. 2
  • Friday, Feb. 3 (if necessary)

The Coast Guard has established an email address for the public and other interested parties to provide information, ask questions, and make comments: d5publicaffairs@uscg.mil. All correspondence will be acknowledged during the hearing and throughout the investigation.

Information about the hearing, including the schedule, news releases and exhibits will be posted online as it becomes available, and the Coast Guard said hearing updates will be posted via Twitter @uscgmidatlantic with the hashtag #SpiritofNorfolkFormalHearing

For more information, follow the U.S. Coast Guard 5th District Mid-Atlantic on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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