Golden Ray captain: No issues with ship’s stability before it capsized

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(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — Everything was smooth sailing aboard the vehicle carrier Golden Ray, right up until the moment the 656-foot vessel capsized in the St. Simons Sound during the dark morning hours of Sept. 8, 2019, Capt. Gi Hak Lee testified Thursday, The Brunswick News reported.

“Until the ship completely rolled over, I did not notice any issues with the ship’s stability,” Lee told U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Blake Welborn, lead investigator into the shipwreck, at a public hearing in Brunswick.

Far below decks in the engine room, first engineer Junyong Kim’s first notion of problems with the vessel roughly coincided with the realization that he might not make it out alive.

“When the vessel tilted, I thought we would be back again,” Kim testified via transcript during the fourth day of the formal hearing into the shipwreck of the Golden Ray. “I thought, ‘Why tilt like this?’ Then I realized it’s not coming back. And, yes, it happened.”

The vehicle carrier capsized in the St. Simons Sound, grounding itself between St. Simons and Jekyll Islands with a cargo of 4,200 vehicles. Kim and his three shipmates would spend more than 36 hours inside the vessel before being safely plucked from a hole that rescuers cut from the stern of the ship’s hull.

The public hearing took place at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources headquarters at the foot of the Sidney Lanier Bridge. The hearing resumes at 10:30 a.m. Friday, with testimony from harbor pilot J.T. Tennant.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic precautions, only participants are allowed inside the meeting. The public can follow the proceedings at: The public can submit questions and comments via email at:

Like those who testified previously, Lee said there were no indications of instability on the ship, which departed Brunswick around 1 a.m. on Sept. 8. Lee, a veteran sea captain, told the lead investigator the ship cleared checks for stability of its cargo before departure. There also were no problems with the ship’s propulsion or steering, he said.

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By Professional Mariner Staff