CA Boat Fire: Early Investigation Suggest Serious Safety Lapses

The lead investigator, National Transportation and Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy, probing the Conception boat fire disaster expressed concerns about the ability of passengers to escape in an emergency after she and her team toured a similar vessel in Santa Barbara Harbor on Wednesday. Homendy she was “taken aback” by the size of the emergency hatch when she toured the Vision — an 80-foot sister vessel to the Conception. (Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department)
The lead investigator, National Transportation and Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy, probing the Conception boat fire disaster expressed concerns about the ability of passengers to escape in an emergency after she and her team toured a similar vessel in Santa Barbara Harbor on Wednesday. Homendy she was “taken aback” by the size of the emergency hatch when she toured the Vision — an 80-foot sister vessel to the Conception. (Courtesy of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

September 5, 2019 – In Breaking News – Los Angeles Times

A preliminary investigation into the Conception boat fire has suggested serious safety deficiencies aboard the vessel, including the lack of a “roaming night watchman” who is required to be awake and alert passengers in the event of a fire or other dangers, according to several law enforcement sources familiar with the inquiry.

The probe also has raised questions about whether the crew was adequately trained and whether passengers received a complete safety briefing, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not have approval to comment publicly about the case.

Investigators have so far interviewed surviving crew members and others connected to the worst maritime disaster in recent California history, which killed 34 people.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman declined to comment, other than to describe the investigation as wide-ranging.

(Federal investigators revealed a possible cause of Monday’s California dive boat disaster. In all, 34 people were killed when the boat caught fire and sank. Kris Van Cleave has the latest. Courtesy of CBS Evening News and YouTube. Posted on Sep 5, 2019.)

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are joining the investigation into the fire, which started in the early-morning hours of Monday while the ship was anchored off Santa Cruz Island.

Authorities have not suggested the fire and fatalities were the result of any criminal wrongdoing, but prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles were at the scene on Thursday preparing to assist investigators and keep tabs on the unfolding inquiry.

A federal law dubbed “seaman’s manslaughter” was used last year in Missouri by federal prosecutors to charge a duck boat captain and two others in connection with the loss of 17 lives when the amphibious craft capsized in a storm.

In that case, it was the Coast Guard investigators who built the case for criminal negligence. The captain is accused of failing to assess the weather, steer the vessel appropriately and prepare the passengers for abandoning ship.

(As investigators continue to work to determine the cause of boat fire in Southern California, a former captain of the company that owned the Conception explained why he believes most of the crew survived and the passengers did not. Courtesy of ABC 10 and YouTube. Posted on Sep 3, 2019.)

The intensifying investigation comes as more details emerged on what it was like to be aboard the Conception when the fire broke out.

The sources stressed the investigation was still in its early stages and could take months to complete.

Jennifer Homendy, who is overseeing the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation, said the surviving crew members have told authorities the fire was too intense to save any of the passengers trapped below.

“What’s emerging from the interviews is a harrowing story of the last few minutes before the boat was engulfed in flames,” she said.

“They felt that they had done what they could do in a very panicked situation.”

(Thirty-three bodies have now been recovered from Monday’s deadly California boat fire and one person is still missing. The NTSB is also investigating the other two ships owned by Truth Aquatic, the parent company that operated “Conception”. Dive expert Eric Douglas joins CBSN’s Elaine Quijano for a closer look at the tragedy. Courtesy of CBS News and YouTube. Posted on Sep 4, 2019.)

Continue reading… Early investigation of boat fire suggests serious safety lapses aboard vessel where 34 died

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