A preliminary investigation into the recent California diving liveaboard fire that killed 34 people has concluded that none of the six crew was awake when it broke out – contravening a law stipulating that such vessels must provide a nightwatch.
Lawyers for Truth Aquatics, the owner-operator of the boat, Conception, have however claimed that one of the crew checked the galley area above the passenger bunk-room at around 2:30am.
The alarm was raised about 45 minutes later, when a crew-member was woken by a noise and saw the fire.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report states that the captain and four crew were all asleep in berths in the wheelhouse, while a sixth crew-member was sleeping in the bunk-room below, according to the fleet’s standard practice – she died with the 33 passengers in the blaze. The victims are now believed to have died of smoke inhalation.
The actions of the crew after waking were covered in previous reports on Divernet.
US federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation to establish whether any negligence was involved in the fatal incident, though no charges have been brought. The process is thought likely to take at least a year.
The FBI, Coast Guard and other agencies last week searched the Santa Barbara offices of Truth Aquatics as well as the two other boats in its fleet, Truth and Vision. Computers and records are understood to have been seized.