‘Right place at the right moment:’ Tugboat crew recalls helping Spirit of Norfolk during fire 1 year ago

'Right place at the right moment:' Tugboat crew recalls helping Spirit of Norfolk during fire 1 year ago

NORFOLK, Va. – It’s been one year since the with more than 100 people onboard.

A representative for the Coast Guard tells News 3 the investigation into the cause is still ongoing.

The fire broke out just a few days before the annual Harborfest in June of 2022.

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The tugboat Rosemary McAllister happened to be nearby and rushed to aid the cruise ship.

“The Captain was sitting across from me,” said Chief Engineer Rico Navedo. “His back was turned toward the Spirit of Norfolk, and I just happened to see a lot of smoke coming from the exhaust system.”

Navedo suspected it might be an engine problem, but it only took seconds for him to realize there was big trouble.

“Then the smoke got even heavier and bigger, and I saw a couple of flames come out,” Navedo described.

Captain Larry Sullivan , and sounded the alarm. The crew said they were positioned in the right place to assist.

“This boat, you could run anywhere from 15-17 hours a day back and forth doing jobs,” said Capt. Sullivan. “We just happen to have a little downtime and fired up and was there.”

The Victory Rover was also nearby and helped rescue the passengers and personnel.

Captain Wilson said, “I’m glad that the Victory Rover showed up to take all the [kids] because they’re geared. They’re a crew boat. I’m not sure what we would have done with 83 kindergartners on a tugboat. But we were ready to take ‘em.”

The Spirit of Norfolk was a total loss.

While officials investigate, City Experiences has replaced the Spirit of Norfolk with the which cruises out of the same pier at Town Point Park.

Meanwhile, is returning to Norfolk. A lineup of activities is scheduled Friday June 9 through Sunday, June 11.

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