A preliminary two-page report by federal investigators has said that all six crew members were asleep when the deadly fire started on a California dive boat, leaving 34 people dead.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been investigating the tragic incident, which saw the Conception charter boat destroyed by a fierce blaze in the early hours of 2 September, as reported by Scuba Diver here. According to regulations, boats like the Conception are required to have a crew member keep watch at night.
All but one of the crew survived the fire – the five who got off the burning boat were sleeping on the second deck, the sixth who died was below decks with the passengers, who all perished from smoke inhalation or drowning. The remains of the last victim were finally recovered on Wednesday 11 September.
Investigators from the FBI, Coastguard and the US attorney’s office who are conducting the criminal investigation are still trying to determine the cause of the inferno. The remains of the burned-out dive boat have now been recovered from the seabed.
However, while the cause of this tragic incident is still unknown, the Coastguard has taken the opportunity to issue additional safety recommendations, such as limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries, and the use of power strips and extension cords.
According to Coastguard records, the Conception passed its two most-recent inspections with no safety violations, and previous clients have said that Truth Aquatics – the company that owned the vessel, along with two other dive boats – were very safety-conscious.
Photo credit: Ventura County Fire Department