California

NTSB: All crew members were asleep at time of deadly dive boat fire

All six of the crew members aboard the dive boat that caught fire and sank off the Channel Islands on Labor Day were asleep when the fire broke out, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The fire killed 34 people in the deadliest maritime tragedy in modern California history.

The boat was supposed to have a “roaming night watchman,” according to law enforcement sources cited by the Los Angeles Times.

On Wednesday, the final body was recovered from the water, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced, as efforts to raise and salvage the boat continue off Santa Cruz Island.

The NTSB report released Thursday recounts the events as they occurred early on the morning of Monday, Sept. 2.

The first notice of the fire came when one of the crew members sleeping in the wheelhouse awoke after hearing a noise, according to the report.

“He saw a fire at the aft end of the sun deck, rising up from the salon compartment below,” the NTSB report says. “The crewmember alerted the crew behind the wheelhouse.”

As the crew woke up, the captain of the boat radioed a distress call to the Coast Guard, the report says.

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The Santa Barbara-based Conception dive boat caught fire and sank early Monday near Santa Cruz Island, and 34 people are missing and feared dead. Santa Barbara County Fire Department

The crew then tried multiple times to save the passengers, but were blocked by fire. The crew members then got into a dingy and escaped to a nearby boat, the Grape Escape.

The crew told authorities that “no mechanical or electrical issues were reported,” according to the report.

NTSB investigator Adam Tucker said at a Sept. 5 news conference that those smoke detectors weren’t required to be wired to the wheelhouse.

“Investigators plan to examine current regulations regarding vessels of this type, year of build, and operation; early-warning and smoke-detection and alarm systems; evacuation routes; training; and current company policies and procedures. Efforts continue to determine the source of the fire,” the report said.

The NTSB cautioned that the information in the preliminary report is “subject to change and may contain errors,” and will be either supplemented or corrected during the investigation.

A final report could take more than a year to compile.

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Gabby Ferreira is a breaking news and general assignment reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. A native of Houston, Texas, she was a reporter in Tucson, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Palm Springs, California, before moving to San Luis Obispo County in 2016.
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