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    Spirit of Norfolk Hearings: Combustible Material in Engine Room Fueled Fire Aboard Cruise Ship, ATF Agent Testifies

    Spirit of Norfolk Hearings: Combustible Material in Engine Room Fueled Fire Aboard Cruise Ship, ATF Agent Testifies

    The fire that decimated the Spirit of  last year originated from the port side engine of the ship and was fueled by combustible material near the engine, a fire investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified Tuesday.

    The fire has been deemed accidental but no final conclusions about the cause have been made by any investigative agency, according to a report by ATF Special Agent Brian Vaughn.

    Vaughn's testimony comes amid a series of public hearings before a panel of United States Coast Guard and NTSB investigators.

    The Spirit of Norfolk caught fire during a cruise down the Elizabeth River on June 7, 2022, while 108 people were on board, including elementary school students. No one was injured in the fire thanks to a rapid response, but the ship — valued at $4 million, according to Vaughn's report — was a total loss.

    Vaughn's investigation was to determine criminal intent, and thus did not render an opinion on the specific technical failure that caused the fire. The National Transportation Safety Board will produce conclusions about the cause of the fire independent of the Coast Guard, as well as make recommendations to correct any safety issues they uncover.

    Vaughn concluded the fire was fueled by combustible material — including cardboard boxes — stored on shelving close to the engine. A split in the starboard fuel tank, caused by excess heat,…

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