The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that all crew members on The Conception were asleep when the vessel caught fire early on Labor Day. The incident took the lives of 34 people and is the worst maritime disaster in recent California history.
The NTSB released its preliminary report on Thursday morning. The report confirmed that “at the time of the fire, five crewmembers were asleep in berths behind the wheelhouse, and one crewmember was asleep in the bunkroom.” When law enforcement officials announced the start of a criminal probe of Truth Aquatics, owner of The Conception, some sources speculated that the ship did not have a “roaming night watchman.” A watchman is a crew member who remains awake so that they can alert sleeping passengers and crew of danger.
Some crew members told investigators that they did not receive training to handle a significant emergency. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than a dozen people who had recently been on Truth Aquatics vessels said they believed their safety briefing was inadequate.
“I have no idea how we would have gotten out of that room in an emergency,” said Josiah Wilcox to The Times. He was on the boat last April.
Did The Conception Have Adequate Safety Features?
Investigators are currently working to determine what caused the fire, which would eventually sink The Conception and trap 34 people in a lower deck. However, early reports indicate that the blaze ignited in the ship’s galley. Speculation is focused on lithium batteries used to charge devices.
Notably, the bunk area of The Conception had two exits: a staircase and one emergency hatch. Both exits were on opposite sides of the bunk area. However, both doors led to the galley and, in this instance, straight to where the fire might have started. Crews recently located the remains of the last missing victim of the incident, and investigators are working to unveil details about the fire.
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