Fire on dive boat Conception in CA

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Compressor

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Please keep this discussion civil. Our fellow divers have lost their lives. Families are grieving. Stick to the facts. Have respect for fellow divers and please avoid personal attacks.
 

Wookie

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Hi Wookie,

Had there been passengers on Spree, would you have had time to get them rolling out of their racks before Spree became a total conflagration?

I know you sold Spree, so it was not a total constructive loss due to that incident...yes...no?

m
No. It was not a TCL. We were up and running in 30 days. Remember that none of us were in the berthing area when she went up, and all fire and watertight doors and hatches were closed. When she flashed over, the smoke was heavy, Black, and greasy. When we responded to the fire, we could see in no door or window. We responded to this fire by dogging all of the doors and calling the fire department.

We were all trained in firefighting techniques.
 

KevinNM

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A quick scan of similar NTSB investigations of vessel fires involving a sinking looks like 11 months is about the time from accident to report.
Um, the last major one was the El Faro. Final Report was released Feb 2, 2018. Accident occurred October 1, 2015. This was complicated by the need for a deep ROV to get the vessel recorder, but that occurred on August 9, 2016.
 

HalcyonDaze

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Haven’t posted here in years, but since I dove the Conception a lot in the 90s, the latest in 2000 I figured I come in here and see the discussion. Started reading when the thread was 39 pages long, finished when it was 47. Up to 51 by the time I finished composing this reply. So, I might as well add my voice to the noise.

My bunk, ALWAYS, was 10U. 10U and 27U are the escape hatch bunks. The hatch is between them, making 10U and 27U the only bunks with an opening between them. So I can speak to the egress there, having opened it up and looked around.

The “cabinet” that everyone is calling a death trap is actually a good idea. You don’t want a hatch in the middle of an open floor because stuff could be put on top of it or in the case of an evacuation where the staircase could also be used, people would be walking on top of it to exit, keeping it closed (or falling into it, if already open). The open “cabinet” (note there is no door on it) kept it free of stuff being put down on it and completely eliminated the possibility of anyone standing on it or falling into it. The three closed sides forced you to face directly towards the exit from the dining room, assuring no one went the wrong way if visibility was limited because of smoke, for instance. Armchair quarterbacks aside, the “cabinet” was a good idea.

The only way that no one would have escaped is if the entire dining area was ablaze by the time it was detected. Given the unfortunate outcome, I have no doubt that this was the case, so my biggest question is what went up so fast in the dining area? I admit that I fall into the Li-ION battery camp of guesses.

The bridge, which has all but one crew bunk, is above the dining area, so it would have become uninhabitable very quickly as well in a fast-spreading dining room fire. The other crew bunk is down below with the paying customers - this is the only crew member they lost. So in theory there was a crew member present that could direct the evacuation on the deck below - if it was possible.

Given that the bunks were pretty full, it’s likely that someone was in 10U or 27U or if not, at least one person in a nearby bunk would have the presence of mind to be able to use the escape hatch - if they could have. Since the bunk area is 100% below the dining room, I’m not sure if escape routes the size of ballroom staircases would have helped - my guess the entire boat above the bunks was a conflagration by the time the first person below was aware that there was a problem.

As for all the boats like this being deathtraps, well yes and no. A fact of life (death?) is that human life has a dollar amount associated with it. Dive boats like the Conception meet all the safety requirements; and those requirements are based on most likely scenarios. Being hulled and requiring evacuation is a likely scenario. A fire in the galley or a fire in the engine room are likely scenarios. A fast, swift moving conflagration of a bunch of tables and chairs in a fairly open-air space is not. I really hope the root cause is found because THAT’S the first problem that needs to be found and fixed.

So is that small, rear escape hatch sufficient for the most likely scenarios? I don’t know, it very well could be. But that’s the second question. The first is what caused the fire and what caused it to spread so quickly. And if that issue can be eliminated, perhaps the hatch is a sufficient solution to the most likely problems.

And maybe not.

Roak

This is, along with Wookie's posts in general, the most informative post I've seen in the discussion so far and I've had similar thoughts (although I don't have firsthand experience aboard the Truth Aquatics boats).

For a fire to block both exits, pretty much the entire galley (which as I understand runs the length of the deckhouse, so almost 1/3 of the vessel's total length) would have to be ablaze. The exits as discussed were not "locked" and at least two of the bunks (assuming a full boat) had almost immediate access to the rear exit hatch. In order for the fire to get to that point without anyone below making it out, you have to assume one of two scenarios:

a) Both the smoke detectors/fire alarms on the ship and all 39 people onboard (at least one of whom should have been on anchor watch) failed to detect a relatively small fire in time to sound an alarm or begin containment measures. Possible, but it seems improbable. One would think that as soon as it became evident, those belowdecks would have tried to escape and the crew abovedecks would have taken measures to facilitate escape (sounding the alarm, using extinguishers to suppress the fire near the exits, etc.).

b) The fire began in a catastrophic fashion that prevented the escape of those below or any firefighting/evacuation assistance from the crew above.

Anything constructed by man is a series of design compromises; as Wookie and others have noted escape pathways have to contend with watertight and structural integrity requirements, having clear deck space, etc. Escape pathways are there to give one a reasonable chance of exiting in case of a disaster; they are not designed to provide a certain escape in utter catastrophe. It's analogous to how as a diver you can carry every type of safety aid imaginable and still get hit with a situation where all of that is not going to save you.

Now, is there a potential for the emergency exit requirements to be found inadequate and revised? Certainly, and that should be one facet of the investigation and discussion. However, that seems to be secondary to the issue of what caused the fire and how it was able to spread to that point.
 

outofofficebrb

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34 people below deck. 34 people dead. That justifies the term "death trap" in this case to me.

What sane person would let their spouse or diving children on a boat like this after this event?

As I noted before, the reasonable solution is to stand down from these dive trips until the cause is determined or operators make reasonable assumptions about possible causes and take suitable actions to prevent a recurrence.

It is not fair or appropriate to be calling it that when we do not know exactly what happened. It is incredibly insensitive as well. Do I think the exit hatch that was shared via a photo was sufficient, despite it being within and in compliance with USCG regulations? No. However, if there were a fire that were so catastrophic that it engulfed the entire deck above, it doesn't matter if the exits were large wide open stairways if everyone was blocked by a huge fire.

Calling it that at this point in time given the lack of information and conjecture considering the audience of this board as well as how much we still don't know is completely barbaric and insensitive. I am not being defensive of this boat or operator because of how often I dived them or how much I loved them. I dived with them once and it was not for me. I never returned. I'm a delicate flower and I acknowledge that. I am being defensive of it because we need to be a bit more sensitive and show a lot more compassion and empathy given the events, especially towards those who are affected, whether family members, friends, or people who find this emotionally difficult because it strikes close to home in a physical or emotional sense.
 

cerich

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This is, along with Wookie's posts in general, the most informative post I've seen in the discussion so far and I've had similar thoughts (although I don't have firsthand experience aboard the Truth Aquatics boats).

For a fire to block both exits, pretty much the entire galley (which as I understand runs the length of the deckhouse, so almost 1/3 of the vessel's total length) would have to be ablaze. The exits as discussed were not "locked" and at least two of the bunks (assuming a full boat) had almost immediate access to the rear exit hatch. In order for the fire to get to that point without anyone below making it out, you have to assume one of two scenarios:

a) Both the smoke detectors/fire alarms on the ship and all 39 people onboard (at least one of whom should have been on anchor watch) failed to detect a relatively small fire in time to sound an alarm or begin containment measures. Possible, but it seems improbable. One would think that as soon as it became evident, those belowdecks would have tried to escape and the crew abovedecks would have taken measures to facilitate escape (sounding the alarm, using extinguishers to suppress the fire near the exits, etc.).

b) The fire began in a catastrophic fashion that prevented the escape of those below or any firefighting/evacuation assistance from the crew above.

Anything constructed by man is a series of design compromises; as Wookie and others have noted escape pathways have to contend with watertight and structural integrity requirements, having clear deck space, etc. Escape pathways are there to give one a reasonable chance of exiting in case of a disaster; they are not designed to provide a certain escape in utter catastrophe. It's analogous to how as a diver you can carry every type of safety aid imaginable and still get hit with a situation where all of that is not going to save you.

Now, is there a potential for the emergency exit requirements to be found inadequate and revised? Certainly, and that should be one facet of the investigation and discussion. However, that seems to be secondary to the issue of what caused the fire and how it was able to spread to that point.
you are assuming that the egress points were in fact blocked by fire in the saloon based on media reports. I think is is just as likely that the egress points were letting fir into the saloon and making it appear to those on the outside that the opposite was true.

4 people were recovered drowned, they did not die in the fire, and at least 3 were not crew, they escaped from somewhere to where they drowned.
 

diverrex

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34 people below deck. 34 people dead. That justifies the term "death trap" in this case to me.

What sane person would let their spouse or diving children on a boat like this after this event?

As I noted before, the reasonable solution is to stand down from these dive trips until the cause is determined or operators make reasonable assumptions about possible causes and take suitable actions to prevent a recurrence.
I think I am sane, you will surely disagree. I am scheduled to go out on a two-day trip on the Truth (the first boat of this operator) in two weeks. I am sure that trip will be cancelled. If it wasn’t cancelled I would go. Just like I still go into skyscrapers or ride in airplanes.

We have about 300 auto deaths a month in California. I still drive my car.
 

KevinNM

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However, that seems to be secondary to the issue of what caused the fire and how it was able to spread to that point.
Yeah, that's the point. If the a member of the crew was awake and on the bridge, how did it get so bad so fast that once it was detected it was obviously beyond the ability of the crew to even attempt to fight it? And at this point we don't know that any of what I just stated as assumptions is the case. We don't know if there was a crew member awake. We don't know when it started. We don't know when or if any fire alarms went off and we don't know if any attempt was made to fight the fire.

But I lean to this being the case based on what people have said about the ship and crew and the condition of the crew when they arrived on the next vessel. However I wouldn't be shocked if the investigation shows something else.
 
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