Coast Guard to hold public hearing on loss of Spirit of Norfolk

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

(PORTSMOUTH, Va.) — The U.S. Coast Guard is scheduled to conduct a formal hearing starting Thursday, Jan. 26, in Virginia Beach to consider evidence related to the fire and total constructive loss of the passenger vessel Spirit of Norfolk.

The hearing is scheduled to take place at the Virginia Beach City Council Chambers on the second floor, which is located at 2401 Courthouse Drive in Virginia Beach. The hearing will be open to the public and be streamed live each day at:

The formal hearing is scheduled to convene daily at 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time 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)

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

The hearing will examine all aspects of the fire aboard Spirit of Norfolk and subsequent total constructive loss 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.

Spirit of Norfolk was underway in the Elizabeth River for a two-hour lunch cruise on June 7, 2022, when at approximately noon, the captain reported a fire in the engine room. The Coast Guard, local fire departments and numerous vessels responded to assist evacuating the passengers off the vessel and with firefighting efforts.

All passengers and crew safely disembarked. Spirit of Norfolk was towed to nearby Norfolk Naval Station, where firefighting crews worked to put out the fire. The fire was fully extinguished 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 causal factors that led to the incident, examine the response, and identify any other information that can improve maritime safety in the future.

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

The Coast Guard has established an email address for the public and interested parties to provide information, ask questions and make comments related to the ongoing investigation and scheduled hearing. This email will be checked regularly, and all correspondence will be acknowledged during the hearing and throughout the investigation. The email address is:

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Rich Miller