Charred wreckage of California dive boat raised from ocean floor

Charred wreckage of California dive boat raised from ocean floor

Social media video grab of the damaged Conception commercial diving vessel after a fire broke out,
The damaged Conception commercial diving vessel (L) is seen after a fire broke out, near Santa Cruz Island, Southern California, U.S. September 2, 2019, in this still image taken from a social media video. Courtesy of Instagram @TOWBOATUS_VENTURA/Social Media via REUTERS

LOS ANGELES: A dive boat that caught fire and sank off the California coast, killing 34 people, was raised from the ocean floor on Thursday (Sep 12) as federal safety officials said the crew had no night watchman on duty, as required, when the flames erupted.

Television images showed the blackened, burned-out hulk of the 23-metre Conception as it was hoisted to the surface near Santa Cruz Island, to be loaded onto a barge and taken to an undisclosed location as part of a federal investigation into the accident.

The ship burst into flames at about 3.15am on Labour Day, killing 33 passengers and a crew member who had been sleeping below decks. Santa Barbara county officials say the victims were all believed to have died of smoke inhalation.

The final body was recovered on Wednesday and Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said on Thursday that all 34 victims had been identified.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday confirmed that two Singaporeans were among the victims of the blaze.

Dr Sunil Singh Sandhu, 45, and Ms Tan Wei, 26, are confirmed to have died in the fire.

READ: California boat fire: Singaporean Sunil Singh Sandhu confirmed among 34 dead

READ: Singaporean diver Tan Wei confirmed to be among the 34 California boat blaze victims

The Conception's six crew members were asleep, five in berths behind the wheelhouse and the sixth in the below-decks bunk room, when the blaze broke out, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report into the incident.

Previously, a US Coast Guard captain said the boat was required by its safety certificate to assign such a night watchman or "rover".

CRIMINAL PROBE

The five surviving crew members have told investigators that by the time they became aware of the flames it was too late to save passengers and the sixth crew member, 26-year-old Alexandra Kurtz.

READ: California boat fire victims likely died of smoke inhalation

Federal authorities conducting a criminal investigation have searched offices and two other ships belonging to the owner of the Conception, Santa Barbara-based Truth Aquatics.

Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the conflagration, one of California's worst maritime disasters, the NTSB report said, adding the crew was not aware of any mechanical or electrical issues with the vessel.

READ: Final body found in California boat fire, Coast Guard issues lithium battery warning

The Coast Guard on Wednesday urged boat owners and captains in a safety bulletin to consider limiting use of lithium-ion batteries and chargers on board and to review escape routes and crew training.

The document suggests investigators are looking into the possibility that the fire was ignited by lithium devices or chargers in sleeping quarters and that passengers could not escape once flames were raging in the dark, cramped space.

Source: Reuters/de

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