Some 106 passengers, mostly schoolchildren, were evacuated when a fire broke out on the excursion vessel Spirit of Norfolk around mid-day June 7, according to officials at Navy Station Norfolk (Va.) and local news media.
Crew got the passengers into life vests and safely disembarked to the 95’ excursion vessel Victory Rover and returned to Norfolk’s Town Point Park.
The 187’ Spirit of Norfolk was towed to Pier 4 at the Navy station, where the base’s Fire and Emergency Services were soon joined by units from Norfolk, Coast Guard Sector Virginia and nearby cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Virginia Beach and Portsmouth, according to Navy and fire officials.
City emergency dispatchers got a 911 call from the Coast Guard at 12:10 p.m. reporting the fire. Passengers told television station 10 WAVY they smelled smoke before the crew and student chaperones quickly organized for evacuation.
Once secured at the Navy base the Spirit of Norfolk continued to burn through the night into Wednesday morning and smolder from the fire, apparently centered in the engine room. Coast Guard and fire officials said firefighting work and salvage would continue cautiously, with concern the heavily damaged vessel could be unstable.
Operated by City Experiences, part of the Hornblower group, for Spirit Cruises LLC, the Spirit of Norfolk is a familiar sight around the Hampton Roads area, providing dinner cruises and group events.
“We are thankful to the rescue efforts taken by local authorities and the support of the Norfolk community,” City Experiences said in a statement posted on its Facebook page Wednesday. “We are looking forward to getting back to operations as quickly as possible. We are actively exploring moving another of our boats to Norfolk to accommodate our summer bookings.”