- The Golden Ray, the ill-fated cargo ship that capsized in September 2019 with 4200 vehicles on board, caught fire on Friday afternoon, May 14.
- The ship’s remains are in the water of Saint Simons Sound, off the coast of Georgia, and it has been the subject of a complex salvage effort for more than 18 months.
- Only about 1000 of the thousands of ruined cars, trucks, and SUVs on board have been removed from the wreck to date.
UPDATE 5/15/2021: The fire is out inside the Golden Ray, and the thick, dark smoke that enveloped the wreck site since the early afternoon had mostly dissipated by 8 p.m. First response teams will keep vigil overnight. Additional personnel will stay on lookout for potential debris and oil spills. Smoke began wafting from the ship during pre-cutting operations on Section 3. Salvers had been using six-foot torches to gouge slits in the hull to make the cutting easier on the VB 10000’s massive cutting chain. It’s yet to be known how much the fire has compromised the integrity of the hull and the many systems that have built around it for the Golden Ray’s cutting and extraction. “Once we are able to access the site safely, we will conduct a thorough analysis of the structural integrity of the wreck as well as all wreck removal equipment,” said Matt Cooke of T&T Salvage.
Thick black smoke billowed out from the Golden Ray shipwreck on Friday afternoon as it sat half-salvaged off the coast of St. Simons Island, Georgia. The Golden Ray is the ship that capsized in September 2019 with more than 4000 new vehicles inside.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Himes, a spokesperson for the St. Simons Incident Command, says the fire started as crews were testing fire suppression systems while preparing to cut into the third of the ship’s eight sections; four sections have already been removed. This is the first time that a major fire has broken out since the salvage operation began, and it dwarfs the fires that broke out during the ship’s capsizing.
The exact source of the fire is unknown, though Section 3 does comprise part of the ship’s fuel system. What’s more, unified command officials reckoned during an April 26 briefing that there could be as much as 44,000 gallons of fuel while gaming out worst-case scenarios; more than 320,000 gallons had been siphoned out before cutting operations began. Also: only 1000 cars aboard the Golden Ray have been removed from the wreck site in total.
All nonessential responders have been safely evacuated from the VB-10000 “crane-saw” catamaran, which is just upwind from the heaviest smoke and the most essential instrument in the salvage operation—as it lifts and cuts the ship. No injuries have been observed. Crews continue to fight the fire with seawater from a flotilla of tugboats against winds that had been forecasted at 20 mph.
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