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Fire on dive boat Conception in CA

Discussion in 'Accidents & Incidents' started by divezonescuba, Sep 2, 2019.

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  1. nathm055

    nathm055 Registered

    I totally agree and was surprised to hear that this is not the case for boats of this type. Most apartment buildings and hotels have interconnected alarm systems because of the nature of such buildings: there can only be a few points of entry/egress for lots of vertically stacked people and therefore there is substantially higher risk from a fire at ground level or on lower levels. Therefore, a fire in one part of the building is basically considered as a fire in the entire building.

    I understand that smoke/fire alarm requirements such as these these were not written into the regs, and am not implying that the owners were at fault, but it seems that going forward this is a pretty commonsense way of reducing risk. Especially due to the VERY bottlenecked/impacted sleeping quarters. It seems especially critical to consider that a fire on one part of the boat is a fire on the entire boat.
    laikabear likes this.
  2. shoredivr

    shoredivr Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Ontario
    How about returning to NiMH batteries when possible; they don’t have the same problems....

    *edit* sorry Mods didn’t see the note above, move this if needed. Should be NiMH battery, not NiCAD.
  3. Ron Lee

    Ron Lee Contributor

    It appeared that this event was while anchored with calm seas. All the points you raised about detection, charging batteries etc make sense yet something failed. If you look at my five points to be addressed, things appear to have failed in at least two areas. Whatever caused the fire may have been a ship system or something brought on board by a customer/crew member. Then the detection/alerting system may have failed. Fire suppression may not have been possible with even additional fire extinguishers located from a spot not on fire.

    The final point about a good escape plan is that with both escape routes blocked by fire, there was no alternative. Even the 2 foot square hatch seems marginal under good conditions. I suspect that there may be a viable option but it requires preplanning on what will be cut open and will require more than hope and a prayer. It will require a tool of some sort and my starting point for discussion is something similar to that small circular saw.
  4. bowlofpetunias

    bowlofpetunias Oh no, not again! ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Sydney Australia

    A ScubaBoard Staff Message...

    This summary updated 14 Sept 2019 Updates are also posted on page one of this thread. Please follow links and read surrounding posts to keep up to date.

    It is always best to read an entire thread before commenting. Due to the length of this one we are providing & updating this summary for topics covered. We believe this information is credible but it can not be established as proven facts prior to completion of the investigation.

    Please be kind when you post here remember the special rules and consider families, friends and survivors who are reading this. Consider Accidents and Incident Threads: Victim Perspective

    We can not determine the cause here but discussing possibilities may help to prevent future tragedies.

    34 Casualties DNA identified

    Conception compliant met or exceeded applicable USCG requirements on last inspection implies approved; fire alarms, fire fighting equipment and escape routes

    NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) Preliminary Report
    Preliminary Report: Marine DCA19MM047
    Discussion points
    • concludes all crew sleeping
    • Statement in Preliminary Report says it may contain errors

    Anchor Watch

    Rough time line as reported
    • night dive time? commonly done by passengers; NO night dive by Crew
    • 2:30 crew member finished up in the galley verified heating elements were out and cold etc. Then went upstairs to bed. Not indicated if this was the designated Anchor Watch see
    • Between 3 and 3:14, a crew member awoke hearing a bang. He attempted to go down to investigate but stairs already afire.
    • 5 crew were in the wheelhouse two levels above the berth area. 1 crew member in the berth below did not survive.
    • crew jumped to deck, one broke leg other undisclosed ankle injuries
    • Captain first Mayday from Bridge documented 3:14
    • crew tried to reach the passengers from aft passage into the salon/galley then via forward front windows
    • forced from the boat by the fire some swam aft to the dingy & brought it alongside to rescue injured crew
    • sought help from nearby vessel Grape Escape Another Mayday call.

    Most suspected causes of fire discussed
    Battery discussions here

    Original location of fire not yet established
    • former owner believes it started in passenger berth area
    • some believe it started in galley/salon area
    Conception's layout and facilities
    Exits from Dorm
    • main exit - stairs to starboard forward end of the dorm to the galley/salon.
    • emergency hatch above bunks at aft end of dorm exited in aft portion of the salon, just inside the passageway to the after deck.
    • no locked doors to the galley, salon or berth area.

    The design of berth area and escape hatches discussed extensively. It meets current USCG standards which many believe may be changed as a result of this tragedy.

    Excellent DAN article Mental Health post incident

    Google Map link that shows Platt Harbor and the US Coast Guard Station, Channel Islands. Ventura and Santa Barbara are to the north

    Related threads

    A personal perspective on California Live-aboards
    Discussion of legal aspects here
    Condolences posted here
    Donations here
    gypsyjim, DiveTy, Jared0425 and 8 others like this.
  5. Ron Lee

    Ron Lee Contributor

    Dirty Mac comment: Yes the stand alone alarm minimum requirement for a vessel of this size and stated purpose surprised me as well. I would think that interconnected alarms with battery backup and emergency lighting, with the alarms wired to a central panel in the wheelhouse, with visual and audible alarms would be a welcome improvement.

    I am not a fire fighter nor expert on this type system but the above sounds like the basis for fulfill the detection/alerting aspect. It may also require multiple fire/smoke detection sensors of the photoelectric and ionization types. One detects smoldering fires and the other faster burning fires...or something like that. The galley, bunk area and maybe others would have both types and in addition, a backup of each type from another manufacturer. Thus the galley and bunk area would have four smoke detectors each. The backup may not be tied into the main interconnected system.
  6. Texas Torpedo

    Texas Torpedo Pollo Grande Tejano! ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: College Station, Texas
    I think most electronics today require more power than NiCads can handle, not to mention, NiCad batteries were horrible with "memory" issues = losing capacity, unexpectedly. (You have to 'cycle' them to keep them fresh) NiMH pretty much got rid of the battery memory issues, but they certainly don't have the power of lithium cells. You can factor in weight as well.. Lithium is much lighter when you compare capacity, as well as output.

    Would battery powered devices being charged on the boat be safer if they were of the "Ni" chemistry? Absolutely. But, would they be effective for what most divers have / want to use today? No. Strobes, lights, computers, DPV's, phones, laptops, etc. etc. There is no getting around the benefits (power wise) of this battery chemistry.

    IMO, the challenge is how to safely charge them. I cited battery bags for r/c batteries earlier in this thread. It's a feel good solution that has proven to help mitigate a lipo that ruptures and turns into a torch. But, I don't think it's that great of a solution for boats. A dedicated containment system for charging would be ideal..

    Don't think someone's phone or tablet started this fire in the berthing area, IF it were started by a battery at all. The more I research (outside of this tragedy), the more I am seeing DIY chargers. Scary! No CE or other rating there.
    chillyinCanada likes this.
  7. PDX Diver

    PDX Diver Registered

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Portland, OR
    My understanding is the galley had a heat detector, and not a smoke detector.

    I have not heard word of any smoke detectors in the adjoining salon. I've read there were a least a couple of windows open in the salon. The charging station is on the back wall. If a fire had started here, and the bow was anchored toward the wind as has been indicated is standard practice, the prevailing airflow would direct the smoke and heat out the adjacent double-wide opening toward the stern and out into the open. I could see with this scenario how it could become quite involved before being detected. Just a possibility.
  8. dytis-sm

    dytis-sm Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Santa Monica, CA
    Not sure if this was addressed but if I remember correctly there were plugs everywhere around the Galley of the Conception, not just one spot. It was typical to see items being charged on the tables, between the backrest and the seat (there were plugs under the back rests), on top of the coffee stand were the coffee makers stood ( closer to the kitchen counter), and an interesting spot: a little step across from the changing room and at the bottom of the stairs.That particular one was very sought after since it was one of the few below. It was not unusual to see two power strips sitting there full of devices/batteries being charged. The great part of that little ledge/shelf was that it was covered with carpeting!
  9. diverrex

    diverrex Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: LA - North Hollywood
    Just a quick post to comment that I have been on this boat a number of times most recently on an overnight trip in January. I would go on this boat next week if they were running trips. I would expect a number of changes in battery charging procedures and some changes to the fire warning system. I would have no problem if the second exit remained the same. I am much more interested in changes that relate to prevention and would prefer any dollars spent are focused there.
    lizardqueen, DanBMW, CSandE and 4 others like this.
  10. PDX Diver

    PDX Diver Registered

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Portland, OR
    This outlet was mentioned earlier, but was only speculation, they couldn't be sure it wasn't another boat. You've provided confirmation.
    danddmiller1 likes this.
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