NORFOLK — More than 100 people, most of which were children, were evacuated from the Spirit of Norfolk as emergency crews worked to control what officials believe is an engine room fire onboard the dinner cruise ship Tuesday.
Fire and military emergency crews were dispatched just after 12:05 p.m. for a report of a boat fire near Pier 3 at Naval Station Norfolk. The U.S. Coast Guard also called 911 at 12:10 p.m., “indicating that the fire was onboard the Spirit of Norfolk,” Kelly Straub, a spokesperson with the city of Norfolk, said.
The 106 passengers onboard were evacuated onto the tour boat Victory Rover and brought back to dock at Town Point Park. Two crew members remained on the ship until it was towed to Pier 4 at the naval base. All 108 passengers and crew members have been accounted for. No injuries were reported.
“The city’s top response priorities are to ensure the safety of residents and the public, as well as the safety of all responders and personnel on the scene,” Straub said.
The U.S. Coast Guard is leading the investigation into the cause of the fire, which has not yet been determined.
Naval Station Norfolk Fire Chief Tony Sickell said the blaze is “very deep-seeded, very complex and very difficult to extinguish.”
“We are doing everything that we possibly can right now to cool the hull and to get water to the seat of the fire in the engine room where we believe it possibly started,” Sickell said.
Of those onboard, 89 were school children, said Jolene Price-Thompson, general manager of City Cruises Norfolk during a Tuesday afternoon conference.
“The safety of our riders and crew is always our first priority as we continue to uphold our vessels with a rigorous safety process and protocols to ensure we are meeting the mandated standard,” Price-Thompson said.
Crews were still battling the fire aboard the Spirit of Norfolk as of 10 p.m., according to reports. Photos and video shared on social media showed the ship partially engulfed in flames.
Price-Thompson said the Spirit of Norfolk crew regularly trains with the U.S. Coast Guard, conducting man overboard and fire drills.
Spirit of Norfolk is managed by City Cruises Norfolk, whose parent company is City Experiences. Spirit of Norfolk offers dining cruises and private events on the Elizabeth River. The 187-foot ship can accommodate 480 passengers for dining or 570 for other events, such as cocktail parties.