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Officials release distress call from Spirit of Norfolk fire

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Posted at 3:08 PM, Jun 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-11 20:55:30-04

Video/audio courtesy of Spirit of Norfolk Unified Command

NORFOLK, Va. - The Spirit of Norfolk United Command has released the distress call from the fire that broke out on the Spirit of Norfolk earlier this week. The cruise ship was at Naval Station Norfolk when it caught fire Tuesday afternoon. About 110 personnel and passengers were on board.

There was an act of heroism that happened Tuesday while the ship burned - one local tour boat captain sprang into action, saving the lives of countless passengers, including dozens of elementary school students.

"Calling Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads from the Spirit of Norfolk."

"Spirit of Norfolk, this is Coast Guard Sector Virginia - go ahead, Captain."

"I have an emergency right now. I’m off of NOV with approximately 108 persons on board. I believe I have a fire in the engine room."
Spirit of Norfolk distress call

Brandon Peter heard that distress call. He was the captain of the Victory Rover, a tour boat that happened to be nearby.

"We pulled around the side and tied up alongside [the Spirit of Norfolk] as quickly and as best we could," Peter told News 3 reporter Ellen Ice.

He says they helped pull dozens of passengers off the ship and onto the Victory Rover.

"It’s really just doing the right thing and [being at] the right place at the right time," he said. "It made all the difference, and I’m not the only one - there’s other tug boats, my crew, the Spirit crew. It was literally a team effort."

A move that the captain of 20 years says he didn't think twice about.

"In that kind of situation, you just do what you need to do," Peter said.

Crews were able to get onto the Spirit Thursday when it stopped smoking and have started their investigation into the cause of the fire. According to Scott Smith with the Hornblower Group, it's "more than likely" that the Spirit of Norfolk will be a total loss.

Officials said that once the ship is dewatered, the contaminated water will be properly discharged at a recycling facility.

As of 9:58 a.m. Saturday, the fire aboard the ship was extinguished and they are currently working on the final stages of a towing plan to remove the boat from Naval Station Norfolk.

It is being towed from Naval Station Norfolk to Colonna’s Shipyard, Inc. Sunday morning at 6 a.m

They say crews are continuing dewatering efforts, conducting final surveys and assessing stability to ensure the vessel is safe to tow. Divers have inspected the hull and sealed off access points so no more water will enter.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Stay with News 3 for updates.