The six crew members were asleep when a fire broke out on the Conception Diving Boat in Southern California, killing 34 people, trapped under the bridge. , federal investigators said Thursday.
A two-page preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which was investigating the tragedy, indicated that five crew members were sleeping in their quarters behind the wheelhouse on the second bridge and another under the bridge when the fire is declared. All but one survived the hell; the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Boats like the Conception, which caught fire around 3 am on September 2 and sank off Santa Barbara, are required to watch a crew member at night. Federal authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into the deadly fire and could lay charges under a law known as manslaughter by a seafarer.
Five crew members, including the captain, managed to escape by jumping overboard, but dozens of people trapped in the boat's dormitory were reported to have died from smoke inhalation.
The disaster was the worst in California's recent maritime history and caused a shock wave in the diving community and the state as a whole. The remains of the last victim still not counted were found Wednesday.
The victims included a family of five, a girl who was celebrating her 17s with her parents and a friend, and a 26-year-old crew member who was thrilled with his recent promotion to the rank of deckhand. Among the others, there was the marine biologist who led the three-day visit and couples who shared a love for the water. Up to now, nine victims have been officially identified, aged 25 to 62 years.
The report comes as investigators seek to determine the cause and attempt to recover the Wreck of Seabed Design amidst an ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI, the Coast Guard and the US. the US Attorney's Office.
According to the NTSB, one of the crew on the upper deck woke up with a sound and saw flames rising from the middle deck. He alerted the rest of the crew when the captain made a panic call to the Coast Guard.
The crew, finding the ladder leading to the main deck on fire, jumped to the ground, one of them breaking his leg. They tried to reach others through a window without being able to open it. They were forced to jump overboard when they became "overwhelmed by smoke".
According to the report, the master and two crewmen swam to the back of the boat and boarded the boat. They opened the hatch in the engine room but found no fire. The other access routes being blocked, they launched the ship's skiff, retrieved the other two crew members and went to a nearby ship.
Once on board, the captain continued to send Mayday calls when two crew members returned to the Conception to search for survivors near the burning wreckage.
There was none.
As crews were striving to recover debris from the Calcined Seabed Design, the Coast Guard issued additional safety recommendations following the tragedy, such as limiting the unattended battery charge to lithium-ion and the use of power strips and extension cords.
The recommendations also suggest shipowners and operators to review emergency crew duties, identify emergency exits, check all firefighting equipment. and rescue on board, and examine the state of the passenger accommodation spaces in search of "dangerous practices or other dangerous arrangements".
Coast Guard records show that the design has passed its two most recent inspections without a security breach. Previous customers have stated that the company owning the vessel, Truth Aquatics, and the captains of its three boats, were very safety conscious.
Truth Aquatics filed a lawsuit last week in a US high court under a pre-civil war maritime law provision that allowed it to limit its liability.