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    Spirit of Norfolk Hearings Begin: Cruise Ship Had Technical Issues in Weeks Before June Blaze, Investigators Say

    Spirit of Norfolk Hearings Begin: Cruise Ship Had Technical Issues in Weeks Before June Blaze, Investigators Say

    A team of investigators on Thursday convened the first in a week-long series of hearings about the fire that destroyed the Spirit of  last spring — questioning some of the people directly involved with the ship's inspection and technical repairs.

    The hearing, led by Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board officials, revealed details about issues the ship had in the weeks before the fire, and efforts to address them.

    While the Spirit of Norfolk passed an inspection May 10 with no deficiencies of any kind noted, the ship lost propulsion due to a malfunction May 15, about three weeks prior to the fire. The vessel was issued a violation requiring it to resolve the problem prior to carrying passengers, according to Lt. Tom Whalen, one of the Coast Guard investigators who led much of the questioning Thursday. The issue was repaired and the ship was back to regular operations by May 18, when its port engine became inoperable.

    Technicians with Bay Diesel, the company headquartered in Chesapeake hired to conduct repairs, recommended the cylinders and pistons in the ship's engine be replaced. Additionally, Bay Diesel mechanic Stephen Hanna inspected the ship's turbochargers with Charlie Wyatt when they found one had a buildup of “gunk,” which made them worry the sealant was ready to give way. The other turbocharger, which is used to increase the engine's efficiency, did…

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