After identifying a violation of Coast Guard regulations by the Federal investigators, some serious criminal charges can be filed in the California dive boat disaster that killed 34 people. The National Transportation Safety Board informed that on September 2, almost all crew members on the boat Conception were in deep sleep when the pre-dawn fire broke out.
The boat’s inspection certificate revealed that a member of the vessel’s crew had to be designated by the master as a roving patrol at all times, whether or not the vessel was underway when the passenger’s bunks were occupied.
Federal investigators are currently searching for the main cause behind the fire and working out on the various possible criminal charges that would likely focus on a federal law known as the seaman’s manslaughter statute. Penalties up to 10 years in prison can be implemented under the pre-Civil War law, if prosecutors show any sort of negligence or that the captain or crew committed misconduct or neglected their duties.
“No watch? A boat that far offshore?” attorney Michael Turndorf said. “I think that fits the statute. I would be surprised if those are the real circumstances, that somebody doesn’t get charged.”
The NTSB report gave more detailed information about what happened before the incident took place, as well as noted investigators have only interviewed three of the five surviving crew members, who said no mechanical or electrical issues had been reported before the fire.
According to the report, one crew member present on the upper deck awoke to a noise and saw flames rising from the main deck. He alerted the rest of the crew and the captain issued a panicked mayday call to the Coast Guard. After finding a ladder, the crew jumped down during which a crew member broke his leg. They tried to get to the others through a window but couldn’t open it. Everyone who survived was forced to jump as the flames were too high to tolerate.
“Early detection may have made an incredible difference in the outcome,” Clark and Kathleen McIlvain said in a statement.