Video: Burned-Out Norfolk Cruise Boat Towed Away for Inspection
The burned-out harbor cruise vessel Spirit of Norfolk has been towed from Naval Station Norfolk to Colonna's Shipyard for inspection, ending the emergency-response portion of the salvage operation.
At the yard, a joint Coast Guard / National Transportation Safety Board investigation team will continue work to determine the likely cause of the fire. The Unified Command overseeing the emergency response has stood down, and the Coast Guard will continue to maintain oversight of the wreck.
The Spirit of Norfolk caught fire on Tuesday afternoon while it was conducting a harbor tour for elementary school students just off Naval Station Norfolk. 108 people were on board the 190-foot vessel, including 89 school children. Passengers reported that the smoke and fire came from the direction of the engine room, and videos from the scene showed smoke emerging from the stern. The passengers were safely evacuated onto other vessels and the Spirit of Norfolk was towed to a nearby pier at the naval base, where firefighting efforts continued for days.
The fire ultimately burned forward through the passenger compartments and up through the pilothouse, and it was only declared fully extinguished on Saturday morning.
Capt. Jennifer Stockwell, the deputy commander for Sector Virginia, told local media that "all indications" suggest that the fire started in the engine room, as previously reported by the passengers and crew. She added that ensuring the vessel's continued stability during firefighting operations had been a significant challenge.
When inspections of the wreck are finished, operator City Cruises will make arrangements for the vessel's final disposition. A spokesman for parent company Hornblower Group told local media that the vessel was "more than likely" a total loss. Hornblower has identified an alternate vessel to carry out the Spirit of Norfolk's previously-arranged charters.