According to the US Coast Guard the 38-year-old liveboard, operated by Truth Aquatics in Santa Barbara, had undergone regular safety inspections and any reported defects had been promptly fixed. Its most recent inspection had been in February.
Regular passengers have told press that pre-departure safety briefings were comprehensive, and that there were fire extinguishers at every level.
The boat had been moored close to shore on the north side of Santa Cruz. Captain Jerry Boylan and four of the five crew had been in the wheelhouse when the fire broke out, and escaped on Conception’s 5m RIB, reaching a nearby fishing boat to summon help.
The fifth crew-member, deckhand Allie Kurtz, 26, had been sleeping below in the passenger sleeping area. There were two sets of steps leading up from this area to the galley on the main deck, though the emergency hatch at the rear was rarely used.
The sleeping area contained four rows of timber bunks in either two or three tiers, with shelves for belongings and divided by curtains. One bunk was allocated for a crew-member.
Ventura County firefighters were reported to have reached the burning vessel within 15 minutes of being alerted but struggled to extinguish the fire, which kept flaring up as new fuel sources, possibly gas tanks, exploded.
Conception, which is reported to have had a glass-fibre-clad timber hull, burnt down to the waterline before sinking.