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Conception Fire - Resource Page

Discussion in 'Accidents and Incidents' started by Wiki, Sep 18, 2019.

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  1. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member

    (summary, facts, and links)​

    This post is intended to serve as a reference (encyclopedia if you will) of information about the burning, tragic loss of life and sinking of the dive boat Conception in September, 2019.

    We will update this page in the fullness of time and as new information becomes available or there are new developments (findings, legal filings, etc.) that pertain to this accident.

    The original discussion thread has been locked. While you can no longer add comments, you are certainly free to post in the linked spin off threads listed here. You may also contact Wiki for advice on posting a new thread related to this accident.

    Please be kind when you post. Remember that many people directly affected by this tragedy may be reading your words. Be aware of the Forum you are posting in. There are special rules for some Forums and they will be Moderated accordingly. Posts that are considered inappropriate, breach SB ToS (Terms of Service) or special Forum rules will be deleted.

  2. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member

    (click blue link to jump to subject post)

    • How to donate to victims funds
    • Accident Summary narrative
    Conception specifications & documents (Certificate of Inspection - COI), safety video, spec/bunkroom link
    Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and regulations
    Fire education demonstrations demo videos (US Boat Foundation, lithium battery burn, flashfire - possibly others)
    National Transportation Safety Board report(s) & US Coast Guard (USCG) statement (prelim & USCG Maritime Safety Information Bulletin) (MSIB)
    Legal filings
    Legal findings
    Out of the Darkness :Changes announced
    • Related ScubaBoard threads
    Discussion topics with links into original thread
    Media links
  3. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member


    — Carol Diana Adamic, 60, of Santa Cruz, California

    — Juha Pekka Ahopelto, 50, Sunnyvale, California

    — Neal Gustav Baltz, 42, Phoenix, Arizona

    — Patricia Ann Beitzinger, 48, Chandler, Arizona

    — Vaidehi Campbell, 41, Felton, California

    — Raymond “Scott” Chan, 59, Los Altos, California

    — Kendra Chan, 26, Oxnard, California

    — Adrian Dahood-Fritz, 40, Sacramento, California

    — Justin Carroll Dignam, 58, Anaheim, California

    — Berenice Felipe, 16, Santa Cruz, California

    — Lisa Fiedler, 52, Mill Valley, California

    — Kristina “Kristy” Finstad, 41, Santa Cruz, California

    — Andrew Fritz, 40, Sacramento, California

    — Daniel Garcia, 46, Berkeley, California

    — Marybeth Guiney, 51, Santa Monica, California

    — Yuko Hatano, 39, San Jose, California

    — Yulia Krashennaya, 40, Berkeley, California

    — Alexandra Kurtz, 26, Santa Barbara, California

    — Xiang Lin, 45, Fremont, California

    — Caroline McLaughlin, 35, Oakland, California

    — Charles McIlvain, 44, Santa Monica, California

    — Kaustubh Nirmal, 33, Stamford, Connecticut

    — Sanjeeri Deopujari, 31, Stamford, Connecticut

    — Angela Rose Quitasol, 28, Stockton, California

    — Evan Michel Quitasol, 37, Stockton, California

    — Nicole Storm Quitasol, 31, of Imperial Beach, California

    — Michael Quitasol, 62, Stockton, California

    — Steven Salika, 55, Santa Cruz, California

    — Tia Salika-Adamic, 17, Santa Cruz, California

    — Sumil Sandhu, 45, Half Moon Bay, California

    — Fernisa Sison, 57, Stockton, California

    — Ted Strom, 62, Germantown, Tennessee

    — Kristian Takvam, 34, San Francisco, California

    — Wei Tan, 26, Goleta, California

    DAN post trauma article
    Alert Diver | Mental Health First Aid After a Water-Sport Incident

    Accidents and Incident Threads: Victim Perspective
  4. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member

  5. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member

    Accident Summary Narrative
    The Conception was one of three dive boats operated by Truth Aquatics out of Sea Landing in Santa Barbara, California, and was launched in 1981.

    Conception was what’s commonly referred to as a “California live-aboard,” designed to accommodate divers on single-day, overnight, and multi-day dive trips. There are usually three decks on these boats, with a main deck containing the galley, salon, and dive deck, a wheelhouse and sun deck above, and a bunkroom below. These boats generally accommodate anywhere from 25-35 divers, have compressors on-board for tank fills, might offer nitrox as well (most often through a membrane system - not blended), a galley to prepare meals for everyone along with a salon to sit down and eat, and bunks for each diver. The bunks are typically located in a lower deck beneath the galley at the waterline of the vessel which was the case on the Conception.

    For the Labor Day weekend of 2019, Conception was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures (aka Finstad’s), based in Santa Cruz. CA. They had regularly chartered trips with Truth Aquatics over the years. On this particular voyage, there were 33 diver/passengers and 6 Truth Aquatics crew. The Conception departed Santa Barbara at roughly 4AM on Saturday, August 31, and headed to Santa Cruz Island, a little over 27 miles away. The group dove all day Saturday and all day Sunday around Santa Cruz, ending with a night dive at an unspecified time (but usually it would have been after dinner, so perhaps around 10PM). The Conception was spending the night anchored at Platt’s Harbor on the front side of Santa Cruz (north side - middle of the island).

    In the early morning hours of September 2, around 3AM (the specific time has yet to be established), a fire broke out on the Conception. It is unknown at this time exactly where the fire started or what started the fire, let alone how or why it seemingly spread so quickly. When the crew in the upper deck became aware of the fire, one of them (Captain Jerry Boylan) stayed in the wheelhouse to initiate a Mayday radio call to the U.S. Coast Guard. The stairs down to the main deck were blocked by flames so the others jumped down to the main deck (roughly a 10-foot drop), with one crew-member breaking his leg in the process. They report the galley and salon were fully engulfed by fire, preventing them from entering through the open aft doorway. They also could not gain access through a forward window, due to fire and smoke. As the fire was now engulfing the entire vessel, they jumped overboard. Captain Boylan jumped from the wheelhouse level.

    Two crew members swam to the back of Conception and reboarded. They were able to access the engine room, which was not on fire, but still could not access the galley nor the bunkroom where the passengers were. They exited the burning boat, got in a small skiff, picked up the other crew in the water, and made way to another boat nearby, the Grape Escape. Once onboard there, a second radio call for assistance was made while two crew-members took the skiff back to the still-burning Conception to search for any survivors.

    In short order, vessels from USCG and fire departments arrived on scene to battle the blaze and conduct search & rescue. By sunrise, about fours hours after the fire started, Conception had burned to the waterline. No additional survivors beyond the five crew-members who jumped were found. Around 7:20AM, Conception sank in roughly 65 feet of water and came to rest inverted (upside-down) on the bottom.

    No one else survived the fire. 34 victims - 33 passengers and 1 crew-member, all of whom had been sleeping in the bunkroom - were recovered and identified. Families have been notified and all names have been publicly released. The Santa Barbara County Coroner, who is also the Sheriff and aided by pathologists, has determined a preliminary cause of death for all of the victims to be smoke inhalation.

    On September 5, attorneys for the insurance companies representing Truth Aquatics filed a motion in federal court to limit the liability of the company to equal the value of the vessel, which would be zero. Legal experts have pointed out that this is a standard legal process in mass casualty cases like this.

    On September 10, the Coast Guard issued a nationwide Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MISB_008_019) urging the review of COI (Certificate of Inspection) conditions, crew obligations during an emergency, firefighting equipment, training of crew, passenger accommodation spaces, and to specifically “Reduce potential fire hazards and consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.”

    On September 11, divers at the accident site found and recovered the 34th and final victim.

    On September 12 the NTSB issued a preliminary report which stated that all crew-members were asleep at the time the fire was discovered. It has been reported that lawyers for Truth Aquatics contest this statement. The attorney for Truth Aquatics has stated that a crew member had completed a walk-through of the galley at 2:30AM and nothing was amiss. The COI for the Conception specifically states, “A MEMBER OF THE VESSEL'S CREW SHALL BE DESIGNATED BY THE MASTER AS A ROVING PATROL AT ALL TIMES, WHETHER OR NOT THE VESSEL IS UNDERWAY, WHEN THE PASSENGER'S BUNKS ARE OCCUPIED.”

    On September 13, the charred remains of the Conception hull were raised intact and put on a barge. What’s left of the boat has been transferred to a secure military facility on the mainland where NTSB will subsequently conduct tests and attempt to reconstruct the boat, much as they do when investigating airplane accidents. NTSB estimates it could be as long as two years before they are able to issue a final report.
  6. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member

    Conception Fire - Timeline
    Friday evening, August 30 - Passengers start boarding Conception
    4:00AM, Saturday August 31 - Conception departs for Santa Cruz Island
    Saturday, all day - Diving Santa Cruz Island
    Sunday, September 1 all day - Diving Santa Cruz Island
    Sunday night - Divers complete night dive (no time specified - presumed to be no later than 10PM)
    2:30AM, Monday, September 2 - Crew member does galley sweep, all is good
    Sometime after 3:00AM - Crew member hears “bump,” open door, finds wall of flames
    3:14AM - Mayday call to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)
    3:18AM - USCG asks vessels in area to respond
    3:30AM - USCG arrives on scene and begins fighting fire
    3:42AM - USCG deploys other assets
    4:00AM - Ventura Co Fire deploys assets
    5:08AM - Fire extinguished
    7:20AM - Vessel sinks (Santa Barbara County Sheriff and National Transportation Safety Board)
    September 3 - First press briefing by SB Sheriff, USCG, NTSB
    September 5 - Motion for limitation of liability filed on behalf of Truth Aquatics
    September 6 - 33 of 34 bodies of victims recovered by this time
    September 6 - Recovery operations suspended due to high winds
    September 10 - USCG releases Marine Safety Information Bulletin, specifically mentions lithium-ion batteries (MSIB_008_019)
    September 11 - 34th and final body recovered
    September 12 - Conception hull raised off the seafloor and transported by barge to a military facility
    September 12 - NTSB issues preliminary report (DCA19MM047)
    September 27 - Unnamed official says cause of fire not found
  7. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member

  8. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member

    Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and other regulations

    46 CFR § 185.410 - Watchmen.

    Watch may not work more than 12 hours in 24
    46 CFR § 15.705 - Watches.

    Installed but not required safety equipment rules
    46 CFR § 181.120 - Equipment installed but not required.

    § 185.410 Watchmen.
    The owner, charterer, master, or managing operator of a vessel carrying overnight passengers shall have a suitable number of watchmen patrol throughout the vessel during the nighttime, whether or not the vessel is underway, to guard against, and give alarm in case of, a fire, man overboard, or other dangerous situation.
  9. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member

    Fire education demonstrations demo videos (US Boat Foundation, lithium battery burn, flashfire - others may be added later)

    Wikipedia : Flashover fires

    Boat USA Fire video Boat Burn

    Dept of Fire Protection Engineering, U of Maryland video
    Lithium Ion Battery Fire/Explosion
  10. Wiki

    Wiki Scubaboard Staff Member

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