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Dive boat disaster in California...
2

Dive boat disaster in California...

Dive boat disaster in California...

(OP)
I'm assuming that in the end, this will be considered at least an accidental disaster, but from what I've learned, I suspect that it will also be considered an 'engineering' failure, perhaps not with respect to the source or origin of the fire, that's yet to be determined, but at least with respect to the situation that resulted in so many people's lives being lost.

At Least 25 People Killed, 9 Missing In California Boat Fire

Officials searching for survivors off the coast of Santa Cruz Island say to prepare for “the worst outcome.”


https://www.huffpost.com/entry/coast-guard-fire-bo...

An old college buddy of mine (the ex-CIA guy) is a diver and goes on at least one dive trip somewhere around world each year. He said that years ago, he booked a dive trip on this same boat out in California. He said he would never do it again, because, as he described it, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

As you can see from the diagram below, the 'guest' quarters was a single, large cabin which slept up to 46 people (this could have been an even bigger disaster). There was only a single narrow stairway and a single hatch to get out of the cabin. The reason that the crew members all survived is because they slept on the lounge furniture on deck.



Note that I'm NOT a diver. Heck, swimming to me is staying alive while I'm in the water winky smile

Anyway, I figured this background info might help explain why this disaster is turning out the way that it is, at least in terms of why the death toll was so high.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Quote (JohnRBaker)

Heck, swimming to me is staying alive while I'm in the water

I was in the navy many years ago. I spent 3 years on ships and that's enough to make me afraid to go to sea on anything smaller than a cruise ship (you'd have to talk me into that). You also won't find me on Lake Erie in a boat.

What a terrible tragedy, due at least in part to the lack of a secondary egress route. How do building codes require that but marine codes (apparently) do not?

Brad Waybright

It's all okay as long as it's okay.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Boat was 38 years old (built 1981)

This view shows how bad it must have been.

Boats always seem to lag behind shore based safety requirements.

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Quote (stevenal)

Good find. I'm sure the vessel had current certifications, but the code you list is unambiguous, and it can't be grandfathered because the link you refer indicates that code dates from 1972 (and prior).
That drawing from John does show 2 staircases leading up but I wouldn't consider that separate egress as they are right next to one another. Even if they were not, they lead from/to the same area which I would consider to not meat the spirit of the code.
If this boat was somehow employed in commercial enterprise without all necessary certifications then somebody will probably end up in jail if they don't leave the country first.

Brad Waybright

It's all okay as long as it's okay.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Tragic.

I'm surprised that you didn't have to open your bottled air supply just to get enough air to sleep at night. That's tighter than a cayote in a prairie dog hole. We must stay aware of our surroundings. Don't let yourself go into these kinds of places no matter how safe someone tries to tell you that it is.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

I've been on a similar eighty foot fishing boat like this on over-nighters to Mexico. I liked the berths below for their "coziness" on the rocking boat. The sleep can be deep, with no pun intended. On our boat, there were two stair exits, and like this boat, they were side by side. The crew sleeps topside out of courtesy to the guests, who get the 'good' sleeping quarters below (ever spent the night out to sea in the rain?). Having worked with buildings, I noticed the bad egress compared to buildings.
The sunken boat and the one we went fishing on are common here. Most meet their yearly Coast Guard inspections are as straight up as required. I suppose boat regulations will address this soon.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

I always try to tell my friends and kids, "Do not rely on others for your safety. Look at the places you go for fire hazards and egress paths. If they're sketchy leave."

What a senseless disaster. The crew only noticed the fire upon hearing popping and cracking noises of a full on advanced fire.
I suspect the victims were already incapacitated before the first pop or crackle.

Great smoke detectors. NOT!
The fire started in the galley. Great commercial automatic fire suppression. NOT!

I hope the company and its assets are erased.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

That’s so disturbing. Worst nightmare stuff.

Regarding two means of escape - does it have to be of a different type? Eg side hatches to jump into the water? I’ve seen a few boats catch fire and often the whole top is on fire. Another stair straight up wouldn’t help much.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

The diagram shows two stairways up, but it looks like they are going into different compartments below.
You can always put another door in a house, but you don't have to worry about your house sinking because you put too many doors in it, either.
I would be curious as to exactly what happened, seems it would have had to flash up very suddenly to catch them all like that.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

JStephen; Fiberglass takes off with alarming speed. -Shocking speed- really, and intense IR production. The IR starts any close FG smoking and the smoke is flammable which greatly speeds propagation. The smoke is exceptionally bad to breath. As FG burns it spits high energy burning blobs.

FG burns like a building full of chemists sat around and optimized something to be the worst-of-the-worst.

Check this video at minute 3:25 Cabin Cruiser

Here's a drone video of a boat similar to the one in this catastrophe.
Drone movie of large FG boat fire

FG boat fires are so bad they quickly involve all the boats around them.
Example 17 boats caught in a single event




Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

In my youth I was a keen diver in Scotland the dive boats all tended to be fishing boat conversions. The converted bed spaces in the hold always had two exits one forward and one aft. The crew areas were only one entrance and the hatch was the other means of escape.


The purpose designed boats were the worst cabins when we dived in hot places. They tended to be one normal entrance and the roof hatches as the other escape method maybe one of them had a ladder.


The purpose built dive boats also had aircon and hydralics systems for the ramp lift to take the divers in and out the water. Electrics were best described as dodgy. Being in a university diving club with a quiet a few other baby mech engs it wasn't uncommon for us to have to fix the boat.

I always had my own CO and smoke alarm with me. And the CO triggered 3-4 times and it was always the hot water heater usually because someone had stuffed newspaper in a draught source. Once extracted everything fine apart from the girls moaning they had a cold arse while showering. I have no doubts that the next charter the newspaper would be put back in.

The air quality levels in that cabin must have been awful to start with. And I suspect most people in it would have never woken up when the fire started.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

The leading concept is the fire started in the galley above the passengers, cutting off the ability of the crew to reach them. I suppose the next question is if there are alarms linked to smoke detectors and if those links could have been burned though before it was enough to wake the sleeping passengers and crew.

itsmoked - Fiberglass is certainly the most flammable, but after reading "Things I won't work with" I'm sure chemists could do much, much worse. There's not even any fluorine involved.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Wouldn't surprise me if it was the case, that would be where the water heater and gas bottles were.

If they had alarms at all they will have been battery ones and more than likely they will have had the batterys pulled.

Although that utility closet looks extremely suspect to me.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

(OP)
There's a rumor going around that the fire may have been caused by an improvised cell phone charging station.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

jrs_87

Nice find, the picture of the escape hatch. So well marked and un-obscured.

Also see. Guess a second stairway was impracticable, since it would reduce bunk space.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

OHG that looks like such a deathtrap... I really can't believe it. Am I seeing that you have to climb the stairs AND THEN traverse the entire second floor to an exit?

After this disaster it would seem to me that you simply cannot have vertical fire exits. That deadly choking pitch black super-heated smoke is going to go up from its source rendering upward escapes completely useless. One person trips, no one else behind them will see the light of day. I think they should have mid wall sleeping birth side exits. They can be watertight with a spin bar, not needed or used for anything but fire escapes. Sinking egress would be up the stairs and out ceiling hatches but not fire exits.

My little town lost high school students and the dive charter leader.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

I thought about exits when aboard the similar fishing boat, and also thought about other boats that were broadsided by an unexpected wave and rolled, then went down.
In Alaska, on some fishing boats, they sleep on deck wearing their survival gear.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

A related marine incident that happened here a couple of years ago. I noted some comments in regards to the coroner's report about different issues and escape routes, and from what I can gather, the watertight bulkheads and so on did their job but ended up preventing egress due to the vessel being capsized.

Like someone mentioned about multiple openings being fine for buildings but a source of water ingress in less than ideal conditions.

This vessel doesn't inspire confidence in being able to get out at all.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

"After this disaster it would seem to me that you simply cannot have vertical fire exits"

Any hatch opening that is potentially at or below the water line will almost certainly present a greater risk of sinking due to leakage past seals etc than its benefit in terms of fire egress. Any hatch opening that is below the water line, if EVER opened, would not allow egress because opening it would allow water to RUSH in forcefully enough that no one would ever be able to get out through it ... until the vessel sinks, which it will in short order.

The fire exits have to be up and out above the water line. It just has to be that way.

But ... there ought to be two of them at opposite ends of any closed area above some minimum (small) size threshold, and not blocked by obstructions (a bunk bed built below a hatch opening defeats the purpose of the hatch opening), and provided with permanent means of access (stairs, ladders permanently installed), and provided with waterproof and fire-resistant and battery-backed-up lighting ...

The other thing that strikes me is that looking at the pre-fire interior of the luxury yacht linked to above, and the interior of (evidently) this vessel, is that EVERYTHING in the interior is combustible. Lots of wood, varnish, fabric, foam, etc. And it sure doesn't look like there is much in the way of fire protection. No sprinklers, no readily apparent fire extinguishers, nothing.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

I live over 300 miles from Humboldt Saskatchewan. I met several people who were related to victims of the hockey bus crash.
I imagine that you may have similar sad encounters Keith.
My sympathies are with you.

Bill
--------------------
"Why not the best?"
Jimmy Carter

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

This article points out that the aforementioned limitation of liability act is a basic part of US maritime law, and was used as a defense for both the Titanic and Deep Water Horizon disaster.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Brief related hijack: You can take the ferry to Alaska and sleep on deck. You throw a blanket down to mark your spot. Deck hands will tell you if you're in the way. Bring out your jug of wine and start talking with your neighbors. It's cold and down sleeping bags and parkas are required. The deck in the cold, with that anti-skid coating feels identical to perma frost. They played "The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" every hour on the muzak system. For the tourists I guess.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Thanks Bill.


BrianPetersen; I never said the lower escape hatch should be below the waterline..
If there were two vertical fire exits out of that rat warren and a fire starts in the births I want you to tell me why the smoke wouldn't clog BOTH those vertical exits.

There is no reason you couldn't put side hatch(es) on that boat's hull above the water line that would never leak, almost trivially, certainly easier than building a stairway.


BUGGAR; I took that ferry system with my better half and we camped on the fantail the entire trip. We took the Columbia. It was great! The deck was covered with clear plastic and underslung heat rods that kept it very comfortable.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Wasn't this the same law used by the dukw boat sinking a couple of years ago?

Remember - More details = better answers
Also: If you get a response it's polite to respond to it.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

https://gcaptain.com/california-dive-boat-fire-to-...

Seems like the duck boat exclusion ruling hasn't been made. Horrifically, had the captain grabbed passengers and thrown them out they would have survived, baby probably excluded. Instead they were trapped in an essentially open boat and drowned when it took them down with it.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Kind of unclear what's happening in the duck boat case. They apparently settled some cases, but never filed a preemptive motion for the limitation of liability.
https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/2019/...

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

We will have to wait and see what new regs the california authorities apply as a result of the investigation. The technology available today is far superior to that of 50+ yrs ago when the original regulations were drafted and negotiated with the boat builders.

IR scanners that scan the entire deck ( espescially above storage of fuel and near the galley) may give a better advance warning, and crews may need to prove all detectors are working prior to leaving the dock and not simply once a year.As with airliners, the boat may need to prove that all passengers can exit via one exit within ( 2 minutes).

There are fire resistant coatings that may need to be used in lieu of pretty gel coats, espescially in the vicinity of escape routes. Such fire proof panels can be fabricated of geopolymers , now used in planes and some EU buildings, for fire protection .

"...when logic, and proportion, have fallen, sloppy dead..." Grace Slick

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Video screenshot captures showing a charging station and a smoke alarm.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

The problem is classic human. Someone in the government decides "two exits are required".

Two are put in. (one completely useless) (one semi useless)

A government inspector shuffles in and counts "one...two" and checks the box off.

No one ever points out that the provided exits are completely inadequate to the task they were required for.

An exit that would take 30+ people fifteen minutes to negotiate and another so called exit that actually isn't an exit but only stairs to another enclosed space are ridiculous.

If I was the inspector I'd have forced changes on them. Using the basis of, "Would I feel safe about having my family stay in that area?"

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Is there also disappointment that passenger jets don't have individual zero-zero ejection seats that would have saved everyone in most every modern crash?

Divers are typically healthy and aware people; at that hatch the first one or two out would be hauling people out in 1 to 3 seconds each, and the more that were in that galley the faster they rest would be moved. Get on the bunk, put your arms up, and you are hauled out of there. If it took as long as two minutes to clear the bunch via the hatch I'd be surprised. Same with the stairs.

OTOH, die in your sleep from toxic smoke and an infinite number of exits wouldn't help. Recall too that the crew on deck, with unlimited access to the ocean, was forced to jump or be incinerated. Escaping to the deck was not an option. Having the galley below is also a bad idea as that means that a fuel leak of any kind will not easily dissipate and can result in a catastrophic explosion.

The rarity of similar events seems to suggest that the basic concept is optimal and that it is new elements that need to be dealt with rather than scrapping all boats. Even the USS McCain has sleeping quarters below the waterline.

I expect the main rule change will to have a sealed metal box to charge and store electronics inside of and the box have both heat and smoke detectors and a way to flood it.

There is still the question of who was standing watch; gCaptain comments indicate that the sea floor drops off rapidly near the island forcing anchorage to be near the shore. An anchor watch is absolutely required so if the wind shifts the boat isn't beaten up on the island and if the anchor drags the boat doesn't drift loose. The same watch should hear smoke detector alarms and potentially smell smoke.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Do you know if a fire watch requirement exists? You're right too that an anchor watch should've been in effect. I guess GPS anchor watches seem to work pretty well these days.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

I suspect that the hatch over the bunk may have been built over and was no longer usable.
I had some exposure to fire codes working on fire alarm systems.
As I remember, an exit from a public area through a kitchen or galley was prohibited.

Bill
--------------------
"Why not the best?"
Jimmy Carter

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Quote (3DDave)

Divers are typically healthy and aware people; at that hatch the first one or two out would be hauling people out in 1 to 3 seconds each, and the more that were in that galley the faster they rest would be moved. Get on the bunk, put your arms up, and you are hauled out of there. If it took as long as two minutes to clear the bunch via the hatch I'd be surprised. Same with the stairs.

Would if what? it didn't happen that way.

Did folks miss my sarcasm above? [sarcasm off]. Hatch is shown blocked by gear in full light with no exit signs. Dive gear is heavy stuff. Now imagine trying to find the correct bunk to climb, in the dark and in the smoke, and trying to roust the not so fit overweight diver occupying the key bunk blocking the hatch. I am not surprised.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

This might be a silly question... but with unlimited water, why don't they sprinkle more areas of the boat?

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Some divers are healthy and aware. Some are so hopelessly over weight that diving is the only sport that they are capable of. I have worked at a couple of diving resorts.
In the evenings, hanging with the dive masters and listening to their adventures of the day.
eg: 350 lb. diver with barely enough strength to stand up unassisted. Three dive masters trying to get the diver out of the water while trying to avoid pulling on any politically unacceptable body parts.
Bouyancy is a great equalizer. No-one weighs very much under water.
As for the over bunk feature. That appears to above a center bunk. The plan shows a large box or other structure in the center of the galley.
Looking at the plans of the Miss Conception, an escape hatch is shown over the shower room in addition to the stairs, but no escape hatch is shown over the divers quarters.

Bill
--------------------
"Why not the best?"
Jimmy Carter

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Ok. One diver. You think they'd get dibs on the top bunk? No different than over-wing exits.

Which plans? The only forward escape hatch I've seen is the news graphics which are a nice try, but are not substantiated with any other documentation.

The video on this page shows that the escape hatch should have been free of obstruction: https://www.10news.com/news/local-news/captain-of-...

The main problem is they are in locations that can fill with smoke because smoke rises, but putting an escape hatch in the floor or walls is a problem.

It is most likely that galley filled with smoke and toxic vapors which then progressed down the stairway and killed the upper bunk occupants first; these plans show that the crew member sleeping area is exactly where they would be incapacitated first. https://aws1.discourse-cdn.com/business6/uploads/g...

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Quote (Spartan5)

with unlimited water, why don't they sprinkle more areas of the boat?

Not a bad idea if done carefully and properly - but otherwise can easily become a shortcut to a rapid and deadly capsize.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Since water is a serious issue in a boat that may be like adding a disaster to a disaster. Saltwater in itself is a special problem as it generates chlorine once it gets to the batteries.

Perhaps something like this.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Please note the sleeping area seems to have had some type of forced air ventilation. The inlet for this ventilation is not known to me.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Its a ceiling aircon unit. They are quiet common in yachts and medium sized boats there will also be a dehumidifier around as well if they are lucky.


They use a heat exchanger in the engine compartment and seawater as a heat sink. Then run a cold water loop round in the ceiling. The fresh air inlet can have a bigger dehumidifying/cooling unit on them. From memory the ceiling units are 12 or 48V dc and have 20 watt fans in them. Maybe 2kw of cooling or heating if your lucky each unit. They use a water jacket round the exhaust to heat the water if its cold.

Having done most of my diving/yachting in Scotland I am more up to speed on the heating aspects than the cooling.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

The report alleging all crew were asleep will do nothing to improve the safety going forward, since there is no way to ensure all crews will maintain a night watch. IR detectors scanning the top surface of the boat , attached to an alarm, would obviate the need for the night watch. I guess a few more tragic fires would need to occur to move the regulators out of their induced coma.

"...when logic, and proportion, have fallen, sloppy dead..." Grace Slick

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Night watch is to avoid a lot more than fire.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Man overboard, weather, allision, loss of anchorage? Whoever was captain of that boat has a good chance of going to prison.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

A loony guest alone is enough reason to post a watch.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

(OP)
My old college buddy, who's a diver, sent me the link below. It's from the publication 'Undercurrent', a specialty magazine for scuba divers, and it attempts to bring everyone up-to-date on what's known and still unknown about the Conception fire:

The Tragic Tale of the Conception Fire

https://www.undercurrent.org/UCnow/dive_magazine/2...

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

That certainly nixes the validity of the "escape hatch" since;
1) its existence was often unknown
2) it was unlit
3) hard to get to
4) very hard to negotiate
5) led to somewhere else still inside the boat (in this case the fire).

I'm disappointed the coast guard inspections failed to remedy this. Ghost Ship 2.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

I'm not 100% certain that item 1 is truly "unknown;" as alluded to in the article, most people don't really pay attention during safety orientations, which is why people often die during accidents. I get that it's machts nichts, since it's prit-near useless, but I'm willing to bet a buck that every safety orientation mentions the hatch. I'm guessing the safety orientation is either done dockside or on the top deck, so probably no visual is ever presented to the passengers to buttress the verbal descriptions.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

Misleading title, it was exempt from "some" safety rules.

RE: Dive boat disaster in California...

The major rule it was not exempt from was a night watch while at anchor. Since a crew-member sleeping by the main exit did not leave that way or by the smaller hatch I suspect that the size of the exits had no bearing on the outcome.

I am far more disturbed by the way the Coast Guard blew off the NTSB duck-boat recommendations and let a second one sink and take the passengers with it.

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