NTSB Says Crew Members Were Asleep When Fire Broke Out On Dive Boat

Multiple Fatalities In Boat Fire Near Santa Cruz Island

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report into the fatal fire aboard the dive boat Conception, which killed 33 passengers and one crew member in the bunkroom area of the boat on Labor Day.

Five crew members were able to escape the fire and were rescued by a nearby boat. They told investigators that the fire was too intense for them to be able to get anyone else out.

According to the report, there were no crewmembers awake at the time of the fire. The L.A. Times reports that law enforcement sources have said the boat was supposed to have a 'night watchman' who stayed awake, so they could alert others to any potential life threatening situation.

The report doesn't determine the cause of the fire, but it has been suggested that the fire was possibly started by lithium batteries inside electronics plugged in at a central charging station in the galley.

The report reads, in part:

"At the time of the fire, five crewmembers were asleep in berths behind the wheelhouse, and one crewmember was asleep in 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 crew members in the water. "

You can read the preliminary report HERE.

The attorney for the owners of Conception have not commented on the NTSB preliminary report.

Salvage operations to bring the boat the surface continue so that the investigation into the exact cause of the fire can be determined. It could be more than a year before a final report on what caused the accident is released.

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