Could a charging station have caused the tragic fire aboard the dive boat Conception that killed 34 people?
According to Shirley Hansen, owner of Grape Escape, the boat that helped crew members of the Conception, that's what one crew member told them.
Hanson told the L.A. Times that once they safely got the crew members on board, one crew member said that he had been 'jolted awake' by a noise and that his theory was that the cellphone and charging station located in the galley could have sparked the fire. The crew member said that's where the guests plugged in their devices to charge overnight.
The NTSB and Coast Guard are currently doing an investigation of what could have caused the fire and exactly where on the boat it started.
What they have said so far is that the bunk area had 20 single bunks and 13 double bunks, where the passengers were sleeping. There were two exits from that area, one on the bow end, a staircase that led from the bunk area to the galley. The other was an escape hatch near the stern. Officials say that BOTH exits were blocked by fire
Roy Hauser, who designed the Conception, says based in part from footage he saw of the boat burning, he believes the fire likely started in the bunk area itself and spread so fast that no one could reach either exit, telling the Times:
"This had to have been, in my estimation, one of those lithium battery chargers. This happened in the belly of the boat. Those people did not have a chance to get out: From stem to stern, that boat was burning."
Mike Strong, a master dive instructor from Phoenix told the Times that lithium batteries are a safety issue, especially in enclosed spaces. They're enough of a concern that most dive boats now require passengers to charge their devices on deck, saying:
"There are fewer combustibles out there and more firefighting equipment."
Dale Sheckler, a diver that has been on board the Conception several times confirmed to the Times that there is one main charging station on the boat, in the galley area. He said that area is "right above" where the victims of the fire were sleeping.