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2 Theories Emerge in Dive Boat Tragedy

Diver points to phone-charging station in galley; Conception designer thinks it began in bunk room
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2019 9:20 AM CDT
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This image made from video shows the dive boat Conception before it sank off Santa Cruz Island in California early Monday.   (Capt. Paul Amaral/TowBoatUS Ventura via AP)
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(Newser) – A crew member who escaped the Conception dive boat almost immediately suspected a galley charging station as the source of the blaze. Shirley Hansen, who assisted survivors of California's worst maritime disaster since the 1800s from her boat near Santa Cruz Island on Monday, says the crew member described the galley as having a charging station where divers could plug in phones, cameras, laptops, and other equipment, per the Los Angeles Times. A diver who's boarded Conception some 100 times says numerous AC power outlets are located in an area "directly above" the divers' sleeping quarters. "You can plug in overnight," he says. "Sometimes with a lot of people on board, there'd be competition for space."

The boat's designer has another theory, however. Based on video footage, Roy Hauser believes the fire must've started in the bunk area and spread so rapidly that none of the 34 people below deck had time to escape up a staircase leading to the galley or through an escape hatch leading to a mess area beside the galley. "This had to have been, in my estimation, one of those lithium battery chargers," he says, noting there were electrical outlets in the bunk room. A dive instructor notes some boats no longer allow passengers to charge devices in bunk rooms due to the fire risk. The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to issue preliminary findings within 10 days, reports the Guardian, with a full report due within two years. (Read more Conception dive boat stories.)

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