A 187-foot popular excursion vessel that offers cruises along the Elizabeth River and in the Norfolk harbour caught a raging fire while operating a field trip for elementary school students on 7 June. Local fire departments, aided by the US Navy and Coast Guard were able to fight the fire and reported that the 108 individuals on board were safe even though the fire continued burning.
At mid-day on 7 June, the fire broke out on the Spirit of Norfolk when it was close to the Naval Station Norfolk. On the ship were 89 school students with chaperones and teachers. Fire and emergency crew members immediately responded to information about the fire and called in fire to the Norfolk Fire-Rescue department on learning that it was a large excursion ship.
Passengers on the ship first reported the smell of fire and then saw flames and smoke that is thought to be coming out of the engine room.
The crew aboard rounded up the passengers and children and brought them into lifejackets immediately then moved outdoors to the top deck. Onlookers had gathered along the pier and shoreline as the fire kept raging and fireboats had been positioned alongside.
As they continued fighting the fire, a simultaneous decision to evacuate passengers onto another excursion boat was made. A relatively smaller vessel named the Victory Rover was brought and then, the passengers were moved before ferrying them ashore. Two crew members remained on the Spirit of Norfolk to aid the firefighters.
Fire teams had been using foam but reportedly, there were no injuries to anyone on shore. Besides, there is minimal risk of environmental pollution due to the accident. As of evening, the fire was still burning on the vessel.
Constructed years back, in 1992, the Spirit of Norfolk is a common sight at the local waterfront. The vessel operates excursions such as a dinner cruise and school field trip in the Norfolk harbor. It can accommodate up to about 500 passengers when operating excursions. It is reportedly owned by the Hornblower Group based in California.
Firm officials have said that the safety of passengers was their top concern and the ship was examined regularly by the US Coast Guard and the crew conducts safety drills.
The US Coast Guard is going to lead the examination into the cause of such a fire.
— Sal Mercogliano (WGOW Shipping) 🚢⚓🐪🚒🏴☠️ (@mercoglianos) June 8, 2022