All six crew members were asleep aboard a scuba diving boat off the coast of Southern California when a fire broke out in the middle of the night, killing 34 people who were trapped in a bunk room below the main deck, federal investigators have revealed.
Boats like the Conception, which caught fire around 3am on September 2 and sank, are required to have a crew member keep watch at night.
The National Transportation Safety Board has been investigating the tragedy – the worst in modern California history – and released a two-page preliminary report on Thursday.
It said that five crew members were sleeping in their quarters behind the wheelhouse on the second deck and another below deck when the fire broke out.
The report comes as investigators seek to determine the cause and try to recover the wreckage of the Conception from the bottom of the sea amid an ongoing criminal probe conducted by the FBI, Coast Guard and the US Attorney’s Office.
Divers on Wednesday recovered the remains of the last victim – one of dozens who died of smoke inhalation as they were trapped below a raging fire.
All six crewmembers were asleep aboard a scuba diving boat off the coast of Southern California when a fire broke out in the middle of the night, killing 34 people who were trapped in a bunkroom below the main deck, federal investigators announced Thursday. A photo from rescue crews who were dispatched to Santa Cruz Island to extinguish the fire at just after 3am on September 2 is shown above
Divers on Wednesday recovered the remains of the last victim – one of 34 who died of smoke inhalation as they were trapped below the raging fire
The Coast Guard has issued additional safety recommendations in the wake of the tragedy, such as limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and the use of power strips and extension cords.
The recommendations also suggest owners and operators of vessels review emergency duties with the crew, identify emergency escapes, check all firefighting and lifesaving equipment onboard, and look at the condition of passenger accommodation spaces for ‘unsafe practices or other hazardous arrangements.’
Coast Guard records show the Conception passed its two most recent inspections with no safety violations. Previous customers said the company that owns the vessel, Truth Aquatics, and the captains of its three boats, were very safety conscious.
James Hall, a former NTSB chairman, told The Associated Press a preliminary report is generally a summary of the early findings that relies on interviews, inspection documents and other records and a review of current maritime rules and regulations.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a two-page preliminary report on the Conception tragedy on Thursday
Authorities served search warrants Sunday at Truth Aquatics, the Santa Barbara-based company that owned and operated the Conception
A memorial for the victims of the Conception is seen on the Santa Barbara Harbor on Sunday
Thursday’s report detailed how one crew member sleeping in the wheelhouse berths was awakened by a noise and got up to investigate.
He saw flames rising out of the salon compartment at the aft end of the sun deck and alerted fellow crew members behind the wheelhouse.
The captain radioed a distress message to the Coast Guard as the crew tried to access the salon and get to the passengers sleeping in cramped quarters below.
They were unable to use the aft ladder because it was on fire, so they jumped down to the main deck, at which point one crew member broke his leg.
By the time they reached the galley compartment it was fully engulfed in flames and filled with thick smoke.
Overwhelmed by the heat and smoke, the crew jumped into the water.
Two of the crew members then swan to the stern of the boat and got back on.
They opened the hatch to the engine room but did not see any fire.
They ultimately determined that there was no way to access the passengers trapped below deck and took a dinghy, along with the other two crew members, to a recreational vessel -the Grape Escape – that was anchored nearby.
The captain continued to radio for help from the Grape Escape while two of the crew members went back to the burning boat to search for survivors until local Coast Guard units and fire departments arrived to extinguish the blaze.
By morning the boat had burned down to the water line and sunk.
All 34 passengers below deck were confirmed dead.
NTSB’s preliminary report on the Conception dive boat fire
The following report was released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday, September 12. It can be read on the NTSB website here.
On Monday, September 2, 2019, about 3:14 a.m. Pacific daylight time, US Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach received a distress call from the 75-foot commercial diving vessel Conception, with 39 persons on board. The Conception was owned and operated by Truth Aquatics, Inc., based in Santa Barbara, California. The Conception was classified by the Coast Guard as a small passenger vessel that took passengers on dive excursions in the waters around the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. The accident voyage was a three-day diving trip to the Channel Islands. On the last night of the voyage, the vessel was anchored in Platts Harbor off Santa Cruz Island, 21.5 nautical miles south-southwest of Santa Barbara, when it caught fire. Weather conditions were reported as slight to no winds with patchy fog, 2–3-foot seas, and air and water temperature about 65°F. The Conception was carrying 39 persons, 6 of which were crew. Thirty-three passengers and one crewmember died.
The wood and fiberglass vessel was built in 1981. The vessel had three levels: the uppermost sun deck, containing the wheelhouse and crew rooms; the main deck, which included the salon and galley; and the lower deck within the hull, which housed the passenger berthing (bunkroom) and shower room, as well as the engine room and tanks.
Initial interviews of three crewmembers revealed that no mechanical or electrical issues were reported. At the time of the fire, five crewmembers were asleep in berths behind the wheelhouse, and one crewmember was asleep in the bunkroom, which was accessed from the salon down a ladderwell in the forward, starboard corner of the compartment. The bunkroom had an emergency escape hatch located on the aft end, which also exited to the salon. There were two, locally-sounding smoke detectors in the overhead of the bunkroom.
A crewmember sleeping in the wheelhouse berths was awakened by a noise and got up to investigate. He saw a fire at the aft end of the sun deck, rising up from the salon compartment below. The crewmember alerted the crew behind the wheelhouse. As crewmembers awoke, the captain radioed a distress message to the Coast Guard.
The crewmembers attempted to access the salon and passengers below. Unable to use the aft ladder, which was on fire, the crewmembers jumped down to the main deck (one crewmember broke his leg in the process) and tried to access the salon and galley compartment, which was fully engulfed by fire at the aft end and by thick smoke in the forward end, through a forward window. Unable to open the window and overwhelmed by smoke, the crew jumped overboard.
Two crewmembers and the captain swam to the stern, reboarded the vessel, opened the hatch to the engine room, and saw no fire. Access to the salon through the aft doors was blocked by fire, so they launched a small skiff and picked up the remaining two crewmembers in the water. They transferred to a recreational vessel anchored nearby (Grape Escape) where the captain continued to radio for help, while two crewmembers returned to the Conception to search for survivors around the burning hull. Local Coast Guard and fire departments arrived on scene to extinguish the fire and conduct search and rescue. The vessel burned to the waterline by morning and subsequently sank in about 60 feet of water.
Later that day, the Coast Guard declared the accident a major marine casualty. The NTSB was named as the lead federal agency for the safety investigation and launched a full team to Santa Barbara, arriving on scene the following morning. The Coast Guard, Truth Aquatics, Inc., Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, and Santa Barbara County Fire Department were named as parties to the NTSB investigation.
Investigators have collected documents from recent Coast Guard inspections and visited another Truth Aquatics vessel, Vision, a vessel similar to the Conception. Salvage operations to bring the wreckage to the surface for examination and documentation have begun. Investigators plan to examine current regulations regarding vessels of this type, year of build, and operation; early-warning and smoke-detection and alarm systems; evacuation routes; training; and current company policies and procedures. Efforts continue to determine the source of the fire.
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Early report confirms ALL crew members aboard the Conception were sleeping when the dive boat caught fire, killing 34 people trapped below deck, as investigators say at least one should have been acting as a 'night watchman' have 1806 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at September 12, 2019. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.