Final section of the Golden Ray removed from the St. Simons Sound

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 10:28 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 3:42 PM EDT
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GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The final piece of an overturned ship off the coast of Georgia has been removed.

The South Korean cargo ship, the Golden Ray, took almost a full year before the eighth and last segment was taken away on a barge.

The ship capsized after leaving the Port of Brunswick in September 2019. Over 20 team members on it, including the pilot had to be rescued.

LINK >>> Golden Ray Updates

The deputy incident commander for the Coast Guard, Donald Raby explained the feeling of Tuesday simply as happy.

He said despite what may have seemed to some as a long process, the hundred plus who worked on this project have spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for nearly two years working towards this goal.

Tuesday, members of the Coast Guard, Georgia DNR, salvage crews and more came together to mark this historic occasion.

Salvage Master Jim Conroy and Siggi Finn-bogason are no strangers to being part of a major salvage effort, but it was a unique task that came with its own challenges.

From the sheer size to the more than 4-thousand cars inside, it was anything but easy. But even through all the hours, sweat, and frustration, they told me today was bittersweet.

“It’s not easy to realize that it’s over, it’s over. A few months more to clean the debris but the big sections are all gone, and it was a relief yesterday to see it coming out. It was a big relief to see the last piece come out and secure it here on the dock. It was a milestone, a big milestone,” said Salvage Master Siggi Finnbogason.

Salvage crews ended up staying longer than expected. That’s because of things like weather and the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the removal process. But also because of the Golden Ray catching fire.

You might remember, operations halted last August due to the potential threat from Hurricane Isaias.

And before that, they had to stop after the ship caught on fire back in May. The Coast Guard says crews were doing cutting operations at the time. But an exact cause was not determined. No one was injured and all crew members were accounted for.

As for what’s next for the final piece of the Golden Ray, well, it will be chopped down even more and then put on a barge headed for Louisiana where it and the cars that were once inside will be used for scrap metal and recycled.

This was work many have never seen before, and even with this piece now out, work that isn’t quite finished.

“This was a unique experience, it being the most historic wreck removal in US history. I’ve worked on some smaller wrecks; I’ve worked on oil removal but just the capacity and the amount of engineering that went into this to do it safely and do it in an expeditious manner was like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Chief Warrant Officer Rick Baynor said.

“We’re still not done. We still have to remove the EPB the cars and the debris from the inside. Teams will be walking the beach for months to ensure the beaches are clean here. It’s a big project,” Raby said.

So, as you heard there from the Deputy Incident Commander, even though the wreck itself is now gone, the EPB won’t be going anywhere quite yet as they continue to clean cars and debris that had fallen into the area.

Unified Command held a news conference Tuesday to discuss the removal process.

Golden Ray update

#WATCH: The final piece of the Golden Ray has been removed from the St. Simons Sound. >>>

Posted by WTOC-TV on Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Residents react to Golden Ray removal

The pier on St. Simons Island is probably one of the best angles tourists and locals alike have had of the Golden Ray for the past two years.

Of course, the pier is popular not only for site seeing but plenty of people love to come drop a line and do a little fishing. One of those regulars is Barney Wehunt.

Wehunt says since the wreck, he and others had noticed an impact to the fish they normally caught. For starters, well, they weren’t getting nearly as many bites and those they did were not what they commonly would see around the pier before the wreck.

So, needless to say, he is happy to see it gone so he can get back to what he loves.

“I said, ‘oh man finally! Hallelujah it’s gone!’ You know maybe things will perk up and the fishing might pick up a little bit because it’s been a little slow. Maybe we’ll have some days of catching instead of just fishing because I enjoy fishing anytime but catching is a special treat,” Wehunt said.

Wehunt did say it has been a popular topic of conversation for tourists over the past couple years but he’s confident there’s plenty of other things for tourists to enjoy on St. Simons Island.

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