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Preliminary Report on the Conception Tragedy Released
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, September 12, 2019 @ 10:30 PM (EST)
Source: Los Angeles Times


The National Transportation Safety Board has published its preliminary report on the deadly fire aboard the Conception liveaboard. The short report summarizes the tragic events of Monday, September 2nd, that claimed the lives of 33 passengers and one crewmember. The source of the fire has not yet been determined.

The report says that interviews with three of the five surviving crew revealed that “no mechanical or electrical issues were reported” and upon investigating the engine room, the crew “saw no fire.” The report also confirms that investigators have gathered documents from recent Coast Guard inspections and studied the Vision, another Truth Aquatics vessel similar to the Conception.

According to the report: “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.”

On Wednesday—the same day that the final victim of the accident was recovered by divers—the Coast Guard issued a Marine Safety Information Bulletin (PDF) recommending that owners, operators, and masters of passenger vessels immediately complete the following:

  • Review the routes and conditions listed on the vessel’s Certificate of Inspection (COI) including the number of passengers and overnight passengers permitted. Ensure crewmembers are aware of and clearly understand their obligations including any additional requirements detailed on the COI.
  • Review emergency duties and responsibilities with the crew and any other crewmember in a safety sensitive position to ensure they comprehend and can comply with their obligations in an emergency to include the passenger safety orientation. Ensure emergency escapes are clearly identified, functional, and remain clear of objects that may impede egress.
  • Review the vessel log book and ensure records of crew training, emergency drills, and equipment maintenance are logged and current. Additionally, it is recommended that the master complete log entries to demonstrate to the Coast Guard that the vessel is operating in compliance with routes and conditions found on the COI.
  • Ensure all required firefighting and lifesaving equipment is onboard and operational.
  • Reduce potential fire hazards and consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.
  • Review the overall condition of the passenger accommodation spaces and any other space that is readily available to passengers during the voyage for unsafe practices or other hazardous arrangements.

The developments came as the authorities finally raised the remains of the Conception on Thursday. The recovery operation had been hampered by bad weather for a week. A huge crane slowly hoisted the vessel onto a barge: The blaze destroyed the entire superstructure that made up the wheelhouse and middle deck, with only the sides of the middle deck area remaining intact.

It is expected that the remains of the boat will be taken to a naval facility, where investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will examine power, fuel and electrical systems in an effort to determine where the fire originated. It has been suggested that the blaze may have started at a charging station used by guests for phones and cameras: Conception’s designer told the Los Angeles Times that he believed the fire began in the belly of the boat and involved lithium battery chargers.



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