Coast Guard concludes public hearing on Spirit of Norfolk fire

Spirit of Norfolk sits low in the water, above, after several days of firefighting.

(PORTSMOUTH, Va.) — The U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded the formal public hearing Thursday regarding the fire and total constructive loss of the passenger vessel Spirit of Norfolk.

The joint investigation team reviewed and considered evidence related to the fire and loss of the vessel, which occurred on June 7, 2022.

The investigation team heard from 23 witnesses who provided testimony into pre-accident historical events, regulatory compliance, crewmember duties and qualifications, mechanical systems, emergency response and Coast Guard oversight. Additionally, 103 exhibits were created for public record, and they have been posted for the public to view.

Spirit of Norfolk sits low in the water, above, after several days of firefighting.
Spirit of Norfolk sits low in the water after several days of firefighting in June 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo

“Fact finding is a critical phase in the investigative process,” said Cmdr. Randy Waddington, lead investigating officer for the Coast Guard. “This public hearing has served as an important element in attempting to establish relevant facts for Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The constructive total loss of a vessel is never a desirable outcome; however, we are thankful that through the skill and quick actions of professional mariners, this incident resulted in no loss of life. We will now move toward the analysis phase of our investigation to make appropriate conclusions and recommendations. The ultimate goal of this entire process is to identify if regulatory, policy, or procedure changes are necessary in order to make the nation’s waterways safer.”

The district formal investigation team will now compile its findings into a report, which will be publicly released after the convening authority, Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath, evaluates the recommendations. The Coast Guard will release a final action memo outlining the Coast Guard’s position on the team’s recommendations.

The hearing was broadcast live as a matter of public record. Recordings of the proceedings are available here.

Documents, exhibits, videos, biographies and other hearing information is available here.

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Rich Miller