Removal of wreckage of capsized cargo ship off of St. Simons Island that caught fire halted

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — A fire onboard the wreckage of a cargo ship off of St. Simons Island has slowed down operations to remove the ship.

The Golden Ray flipped on its side in 2019 and has been there ever since.

Hopes of finally having the ship removed were dashed last week when another fire broke out on board the cargo ship. Thick black smoke billowed over the Georgia coast, fueled by some 3,000 vehicles and an estimated 40,000 gallons of fuel still on board.

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Channel 2′s Tony Thomas got a close-up look at operations trying to remove the ship with leaders of the Unified Incident Command just days before the fire.

“This is the largest wreck removal project of its type in American history,” said John Maddox with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Workers were using torches to clear a path for a big chain to cut apart another section when the fire broke out.

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Investigators say there has been no increase in environmental problems so far. They say a barrier they set up to contain any debris or pollution is working.

Sue Inman, the Altmaha Riverkeeper, is not so sure. She says she had concerns even before the fire.

“It breaks my heart, it really does, just to see it wash up on the beaches or see the manatees swim through it, or the dolphins swim through it,” she said.

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The Unified Command told Thomas they would send crews back in to continue working on removing the ship as soon as it is safe. It is unclear what effect the fire has had on the ship’s structural integrity.

Prior to the fire, crews hoped to have the ship removed by August.