The tragic fire that recently claimed the lives of 34 people aboard the liveaboard dive vessel Conception off the coast of California has spawned a U.S. federal government safety investigation, the preliminary report of which was released this week.
While no conclusions have yet been reached, the National Transportation Safety Board report does state that the six Conception crew members were all asleep “at the time of the fire.”
According to the report, one of the crew “sleeping in the wheelhouse berths was awakened by a noise and got up to investigate. He saw a fire at the aft end of the sun deck, rising up from the salon compartment below. The crew member alerted the crew behind the wheelhouse. As crew members awoke, the captain radioed a distress message to the Coast Guard.”
If you’ve ever been a member of a crew aboard a boat that goes on multi-day trips — dive or otherwise — standard practice is that at least one crew member should be awake and on watch at all times, even while at anchor during a trip.
It’s worth emphasizing that this is a preliminary report, and that findings could change with further investigation and interviews.
Glen Fritzler, owner and operator of Truth Aquatics, put out a statement:
“My family and I are speaking today with extremely heavy hearts. No words will ease the pain that loved ones are feeling. We extend our deepest condolences to all those involved in this horrific tragedy.
“We have not yet made a public statement because we have been working tirelessly with the NTSB to find answers. As a member of the NTSB task force committee, we are prevented from commenting on details of this active investigation. We are committed to finding accurate answers as quickly as possible.
“Yet, we can speak to our emotions. We are utterly crushed. We are devastated. We are a small, family-run business that has taken this event entirely to heart. Our customers are like family to us, many returning for decades. Our crew is family.
“Our lives have been irreversibly changed by this tragedy and the sorrow it has caused. The families and friends of the victims and survivors are now, and forever, in our thoughts and prayers.”
Read the NTSB’s preliminary report here.