The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has deployed a team of investigators to California, where a horrific fire aboard a dive boat tragically killed 34 people early Monday morning.
5 Crew Members Survived California Dive Boat Fire
The devastating fire erupted shortly after 3:00 a.m. on September 2nd, as 33 passengers and six crew were asleep aboard the Conception. The 75-foot dive boat was on the final day of a 3-day excursion to the Channel Islands, and moored just 20 yards from the shore of Santa Cruz Island when the vessel burst into flames.
Only five crew members survived the California dive boat fire, and all were sleeping topside. The men managed to escape the burning ship in a dinghy before being rescued by a nearby private fishing boat.
It’s believed all of the Conception passengers and a single crew member were sleeping below deck when the disaster began. Although two survivors returned to the water hoping to rescue others, their efforts proved futile.
“The entire boat was engulfed, from the bow to the stern and 30-foot flames,” an occupant of the fishing boat told NBC 4 in Los Angeles. “It was just terrible. It was just completely lit up. I mean, there wasn’t a place on the boat that wasn’t on fire.
NTSB Investigators Arrived in California on Tuesday
A 16-member team of fire specialists and engineers from the NTSB arrived in the area on Tuesday.
“We have put together a list of witnesses and interested persons that we will conduct interviews with, those include the crew and others over the next coming days,” board member Jennifer Homendy told Fox News.
Investigators expect to be on scene for at least 10 days. In addition to the interviews, they’ll be looking at the safety measures employed by the Conception, including whether it was equipped with fire extinguishers.
Dive Boat Fire Among California’s Worst Maritime Accidents
Monday’s tragedy was one of the worst maritime accidents in California history.
So far, divers from the U.S. Coast Guard have recovered the remains of 33 people killed aboard the Conception. A single person remains missing and is also presumed to have died.
Victims of the California dive boat fire included teenagers as young as 17 and adults in their 60’s. At least two families were onboard, as were two students from Pacific Collegiate School, a charter school located in Santa Cruz.
“While this was not a school sponsored trip, our hearts and thoughts are with the families of the victims and those yet missing, particularly those of our students and parents on board,” the school said in a statement.
What’s Known About the Conception Dive Boat
According to media reports, all 33 passengers had boarded the Conception in Santa Barbara on Saturday. They were expected to return by 5:00 p.m. on Monday.
The doomed vessel was owned by Truth Aquatics, a well-respected company that’s been operating out of Santa Barbara Harbor since 1975. The ship had been chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures for a 3-day, $665 per person excursion “to explore the pinnacles of San Miguel Island” over Labor Day weekend.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Conception was required to have smoke detectors, fixed firefighting equipment in the engine room, and fire extinguishers throughout the vessel, including the front and rear of the boat. The ship’s most recent inspection report indicates that it was in compliance.
The NTSB will likely construct a timeline of events leading up to the California dive boat fire. Investigators will also try to determine why those below were unable to escape the deadly inferno.
“Our mission here while we’re on scene is to determine how this happened, why it happened and what safety improvements are needed to prevent it from ever happening again,” Homendy said.
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