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Dive Boat Catches Fire And Sinke Of Santa Cruz Island

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  • Dive Boat Catches Fire And Sinke Of Santa Cruz Island

    34 Missing as Dive Boat Conception Sinks Near Santa Cruz Island
    5 crew members were rescued before Santa Barbara-based vessel sank in 65 feet of water

    Tom Bolton Reports

    A Santa Barbara-based commercial dive boat caught fire and sank early Monday near Santa Cruz Island, and nearly three dozen people are missing and feared dead, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

    The vessel was identified as the 75-foot Conception, and reportedly was on a 3-day dive trip to the island, said Mike Eliason, a Fire Department spokesman.

    The Conception's crew put out a distress call at about 3:30 a.m., reporting the vessel was engulfed in flames, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

    The boat, which was anchored about 20 yards offshore, eventually sank in some 65 feet of water, Eliason said.

    The vessel currently has a portion of the bow sticking out of the water, the Coast Guard said.

    Five people believed to be crew members were rescued, at least one with injuries, by a nearby pleasure craft, while 34 others aboard remained missing, according to the Coast Guard.

    More Info

    Details On Trip And Vessel

    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    Very sad to hear.

    Condolences to all involved, friends and family members.


    • #3
      Some of the lost were from Santa Cruz.


      • #4
        They never had a chance.........


        • #5
          Probable Cause In Conception Dive Boat Fire: Lithium Batteries

          Surviving crew member thought phone charging station might have sparked boat fire

          Hannah Fry Los Angeles Times

          One of the crew members aboard the dive boat Conception hadn't been asleep long when a noise jolted him awake.

          He swung open the door of the wheelhouse — the top level of the 75-foot boat, located just above the galley — and was greeted by flames.

          A special thanks to Steve Rankin, diver and former passenger on the Conception, who let me interview him to create this graphic of that boat where 34 people died. The diagram, which illustrates the escape routes, shows just how impossible it was for the passengers to escape the fire. The staircase from the sleeping quarters opens into the galley, which was engulfed in flames and has no exit except through the back where the dive deck is. The only escape hatch was in the shower room, which is not accessible from the sleeping quarters. Jeff Goertzen-SCNG

          As the fire raged in the predawn hours of Labor Day, the vessel's captain made a frantic mayday call to the Coast Guard. Then he and four crew members jumped from the wheelhouse and climbed into a dinghy to get help from the Grape Escape, a fishing boat anchored nearby off Santa Cruz Island.

          Once aboard, the crew member who had been jolted awake shook as he recounted the horrific story to Grape Escape owner Shirley Hansen. His theory, Hansen said, was that the fire started in the galley, where cellphones and cameras had been plugged in to charge overnight.

          "The impression I got was that the fire was already too big to do anything," Hansen said in an interview Wednesday.
          The cause of the fire, which killed 34 people, is now the subject of an intensive investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal and county agencies. Investigators are trying to determine where and how it started.

          The concern about the charging station in the galley is one possibility.

          Roy Hauser, who designed the Conception and commissioned its construction in 1981, suggested another. He said he thinks, based in part on footage he viewed of the wood-hulled boat being ravaged by fire, that the blaze started in the bunk area and spread so rapidly that the 34 people there could not get out.

          "This had to have been, in my estimation, one of those lithium battery chargers," Hauser told The Times. "This happened in the belly of the boat. Those people did not have a chance to get out: From stem to stern, that boat was burning."

          The Conception was one of three dive boats operated out of Santa Barbara Harbor by Truth Aquatics Inc., a long-established operation founded by Hauser in 1974 and now owned by Glen Fritzler.
          The diesel-powered boat had three decks: the wheelhouse on top, the main dive deck in the middle and the bunk room on the bottom.

          Escape hatch in the bunk area

          The sleeping area had 20 single bunks and 13 doubles, some stacked three high, records show. When fire consumed the boat, the bunks were occupied by 33 passengers and one crew member.
          For those in the bunk room, there were two exits. At the bow end of the room was a staircase that led up to the galley area. Toward the stern, an escape hatch located above one of the bunks led to a mess area next to the galley — and just a few feet from the large, open main deck.

          Officials said Tuesday that both exits from the bunk area were blocked by fire. Hauser said passengers should not have been impeded by flames — if they had been able to get to the escape hatch from the bunk room.
          "When you come out of the escape hatch you look straight out to the main deck — you're within 3 or 4 feet of the main deck. All you have to do is lurch forward," Hauser said. "I don't think those people ever had a chance to get out of their bunks."

          Boat fires often start in engine compartments, where fuel ignition sources can combine. Other such fires have been traced to electrical sources, such as wiring harnesses or batteries, or to external causes such as fires in marinas or storage facilities.

          Hauser said the rapid spread of fire caused by a lithium battery could explain why no one got out.

          The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits airline passengers from stowing devices containing lithium batteries — such as those in cellphones, laptops and cameras — in checked luggage unless they are turned off and protected from damage. As of Aug. 1, the FAA had recorded 265 air or airport incidents involving lithium batteries in cargo or baggage.

          The U.S. Navy and others in the dive industry also have expressed concerns about lithium batteries, which in various sizes are used to power everything from automobiles to hoverboards. They also power smaller devices, such as cellphones and camera equipment, that can be carried aboard boats.

          "Lithium cells and batteries offer many advantages compared to other power sources," U.S. Navy guidelines state. "However, they are high-energy devices and shall be considered hazardous at all times. "
          Mike Strong, a Phoenix-area PADI master dive instructor, said, "We've all seen these batteries go," alluding to reports of cellphones, e-cigarettes and lithium car batteries catching fire.
          "They're a major safety issue," he said, noting that he charges his batteries in a fireproof container.

          And yet, on some boats, people have their camera and dive equipment charging at outlets in bunk rooms, in the galley or in the salon, he said.

          "Most dive boats now require you to charge them externally on the deck," Strong said. "There are fewer combustibles out there and more firefighting equipment."

          Dale Sheckler, a longtime diver who's been on the Conception roughly 100 times, said there was a main charging station in the galley. A number of AC power outlets — the power strips one might have at home — are available for charging cellphones, batteries for strobes, underwater lighting and laptops.

          The main charging station would be "directly above the bunk bed areas," he said.
          There are conflicting account about whether power outlets were available in the sleeping quarters. Sheckler
          said he thought there were some there and in the restroom area. But he recalls the galley area as the main charging station.

          "You can plug in overnight," he said. "Sometimes with a lot of people on board, there'd be competition for space."
          Gerry Lazzareschi, a physician who's led seven trips on the Conception over the past 20 years, said power outlets were located every few feet along a ledge that lined the galley. He did not recall outlets in the sleeping quarters.

          "There were never any wires haphazardly hanging out," Lazzareschi said of the outlets. "It was all very well appointed."
          Hauser, the boat's designer, said there were electrical outlets in the bunk room, where he fears the blaze started and spread rapidly.
          Long since retired, Hauser, 75, said he has not yet spoken with

          Fritzler, his former partner and Truth Aquatics' current owner, and has no inside information on the fire. But even though he has been out of the business for years, Hauser said, he is distraught by the Labor Day catastrophe on the Conception.

          "I'm devastated," Hauser said. "My God, we did this so people could go out and have fun and dive — not die. Especially in that magnitude. It's unbelievable."
          Times staff writer Laura Newberry contributed to this rep
          Last edited by Photoboy; 09-05-2019, 04:46 PM.
          " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

 Photo Gallery


          • #6
            I would suspect that a full load with all guests and crew charging at same time that the possibility of
            a battery igniting and then others in immediate area following suit is very realistic.


            • #7
              Charging Station Overload Appears To Be Root Of Deadly Conception Fire

              Richard Swinton of Los Angeles Times Reports

              SANTA BARBARA — When the Conception first hit the water in the early 1980s, the personal electronics revolution was decades away.

              Divers who boarded the 75-foot boat for excursions in the Channel Islands brought film cameras. There were no smartphones to plug in or the array of other electronic devices now used to take underwater photos. But when the vessel set off decades later on its fateful Labor Day voyage, those on board needed power — a lot of it. And they plugged their equipment into a series of outlets concealed in the back of foam-filled L-shaped benches in the ship’s galley. Those outlets are now the focus of an intense investigation as federal officials try to determine the cause of the worst maritime disaster in modern California history, a fire that swept through the dive boat and killed 34 people.

              The Conception was raised from the depths of Platts Harbor and is now at the Port Hueneme naval facility, where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives national incident team of leading fire experts are examining the power, fuel and electrical systems, federal officials said.

              As the investigation continues, the U.S. Coast Guard took the unprecedented step of recommending that owners of passenger vessels immediately urge crews to “reduce potential fire hazards and consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.”

              Divers and others in the boat world said the electrical systems of boats such as the Conception have been put to the test in recent years as the number of electronics brought on board has increased.
              Competing for limited plug space are batteries for strobe lights, digital cameras and underwater light rigs, video camera power packs, GoPro chargers and lithium-ion batteries for cellphones and tablets.
              “People have rechargeable everything these days,” said veteran diver Ben Wolfe, a retired fire department captain who dived off the Conception two weeks before its fiery demise. “I had a battery like a TV camera battery that powered my underwater scooter plugged in each night.”

              Preliminary investigations have suggested the fire did not start in the engine room, and there are growing signs the origin was in the galley area. On the morning of the fire, one crew member told a rescuer he thought the fire started with electronic devices charging in the galley.
              One of the crew members, Ryan Sims, has filed a lawsuit against the Conception’s owners, alleging Truth Aquatics Inc., Worldwide Diving Adventures and boat owner Glen Fritzler failed to properly train crew members, give adequate safety or medical equipment and provide safety rules.
              Sims said in court documents he was awakened by loud noises to discover the already-raging fire. He jumped from the top deck, where he had been sleeping, and broke his leg, before joining four other crew members in a dinghy they took to a nearby boat to call for help.

              Some of the crew returned to the burning Conception, but the boat was engulfed in flames and no one else on board, including one additional crew member, was found
              Statistics gathered by insurers and industry watchdogs show that about 55% of shipboard fires in smaller vessels are related to electrical systems. Given the boat had an electric galley and no propane or gasoline, investigators will look at the electrical systems and appliances and their interaction with combustibles, said John McDevitt, a former assistant fire chief, marine surveyor and chairman of the National Fire Protection Assn.
              “The environment and salty air plays havoc with the electrical system,” he said. “Electricity is challenging on a boat. With all those charging stations running through an old circuit, it is probably electrical.”

              The Conception had passed U.S. Coast Guard inspection before the fire, and the electrical system met federal guidelines.
              But experts said frayed, loose or improperly connected wiring behind the walls could have ignited a fire. The volume of device batteries being charged could also have overloaded the wiring, causing it to heat up and start the blaze. While many systems are designed to shut down when overloaded, sometimes the wiring cannot handle the capacity.
              McDevitt said despite the charred wreckage of the Conception, which had its top deck, middle deck and much of the bunk deck burned out, there will be clues for veteran fire investigators to decipher the chain of events that led to the inferno.

              “There will be telltale signs of what happened,” he said.

              The age of the wiring, and whether it had been updated, could also be a factor.

              “It is hard to say its condition,” McDevitt said.

              Beyond the wiring, there are other possibilities: an exploding or smoldering lithium-ion battery, a fraying connection cord or a mismatched charger, experts said.
              A former second captain of the Conception, who asked not to be identified given the public attention, told The Times that divers brought a wide array of electronics on previous trips.
              “They use a lot of cameras — a large number of daisy chains of electronics — and sometimes it seems like too much into one outlet,” he said. “We are talking top-of-the-line cameras one after another, not cellphones. We are talking about big batteries.”

              Ken Kurtis, a Beverly Hills-based dive company owner who acts as a consultant to Los Angeles County’s coroner on diving fatalities, estimated that a third of the divers on any given excursion are underwater photographers, who bring along large numbers of electronics that need charging.
              And with all those power needs, he said, come potential dangers.
              “One of my friends [once] found a frayed cord on their battery charger,” he said. “Something like that can spark a burn.”
              Lithium-ion batteries have grabbed plenty of headlines with exploding laptops, cellphones burning in pockets and airline restrictions on their carriage.

              The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits airline passengers from stowing devices containing lithium batteries — such as those in cellphones, laptops and cameras — in checked luggage unless they are turned off and protected from damage. As of Aug. 1, the FAA had recorded 265 air or airport incidents involving lithium batteries in cargo or baggage.
              The U.S. Navy and others in the dive industry also have expressed concerns about lithium batteries.

              “Lithium cells and batteries offer many advantages compared to other power sources,” U.S. Navy guidelines state. “However, they are high-energy devices and shall be considered hazardous at all times.
              Wolfe, the retired fire captain who had traveled aboard the Conception a handful of times, said the bench on the boat with the outlets was not only a place to charge batteries and electronics.
              “The space down behind the cushion often had T-shirts, towels and bottles of wine because it was a place to store them and stop them from rolling around,” said Wolfe, who wondered whether the cushions could have provided fuel for the blaze.

              He also questioned why the vessel’s smoke detectors wouldn’t have been triggered by the fire, alerting the crew to the blaze sooner.
              The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report found that the entire crew was asleep before the blaze was discovered and the Conception did not have a roaming watchman, as required by the U.S. Coast Guard for vessel certification.
              Kurtis and others were stunned by the disaster in part because the boat owner, Truth Aquatics, has a strong reputation in the boating industry.
              “Truth Aquatics was the last boat you think would burn,” he said. “The questions everyone is asking is: How did this fire start? And how and why did it spread so quickly?”
              " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

     Photo Gallery


              • #8
                The lack of an easy escape route is an obvious poor design flaw, but you have to wonder
                if any of the victims below ever woke up or asphyxiated in their sleep. Expect new guidelines
                for charging stations and limits on gear allowed in future along wit modifications to escape routes
                on these older vessels.