On Tuesday, 20 October 2020, Federal Security Authorities ruled that the owners of the Southern California dive boat MV Conception (Truth Aquatics Inc.) whose lack of supervision/nightwatch resulted in a fire that swept through the vessel and killed 34 people in their bunks below deck are deemed responsible. The catastrophe is considered one of the deadliest maritime disasters in California on Labour Day, September 2019.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the captain of the MV Conception neglected to have a roving night watchman on board the vessel, causing the fire to spread quickly, unchecked and trapping 33 passengers and one member of the crew below deck. The captain of the ship said the fire engulfed the aft escape hatch and the surviving crew could do little to rescue the passengers and the second deckhand, all of whom were sleeping in the berths on the lower deck. The fire forced five of the crew members, whose sleeping quarters were on the top deck, to jump overboard, but not before making an initial Mayday call to the Coast Guard and attempting to alert the passengers. According to autopsy reports, all deaths were attributed to smoke inhalation.
Read The Scuba News Canada story on MV Conception
Investigators said the burning and sinking of Conception made it impossible to ascertain the exact cause of the fire. But they determined that the blaze started near the back of the bridge in the boat’s lounge, where divers plugged in smartphones and other battery-containing lithium-ion devices.
An urgent bulletin has already been released by the Coast Guard to warn the owners and operators of similar vessels to check security protocols.
It is anticipated that a final National Transportation Safety Board report will take 12 to 18 months.