Op­er­a­tor sus­pends boat oper­a­tions af­ter fa­tal fire

Lodi News-Sentinel - - PAGE TWO - By Richard Winton

LOS AN­GE­LES — The op­er­a­tor of the Con­cep­tion dive boat, which burned in a La­bor Day fire that killed 34 peo­ple, an­nounced Tues­day it was sus­pend­ing all oper­a­tions as the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the deadly blaze con­tin­ued.

The com­pany has come un­der scru­tiny since the fire, with the FBI and other agen­cies spend­ing sev­eral days search­ing its Santa Bar­bara of­fices and at least one of its other boats. De­spite the in­tense in­spec­tions, U.S. Coast Guard of­fi­cials say there are no re­stric­tions on Truth Aquat­ics op­er­at­ing its ves­sels.

“With the con­tin­ued calls and re­quest for tours, we want to an­nounce that we are of­fi­cially sus­pend­ing all oper­a­tions of our Truth Aquatic fleet for a to-be-deter­mined amount of time,” Truth Aquat­ics said in an In­sta­gram post. “Right now we feel it’s im­por­tant (to) ded­i­cate our en­tire ef­forts to make our boats mod­els of new reg­u­la­tions that we will con­tinue to work on with the NTSB and Coast Guard.”

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board’s pre­lim­i­nary re­port found that the en­tire crew was asleep be­fore the blaze was dis­cov­ered, and the Con­cep­tion did not have a roam­ing watch­man, as re­quired by the U.S. Coast Guard for ves­sel cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The NTSB in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­tin­u­ing, and it is pos­si­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tors could re­turn to in­spect the sal­vaged ves­sel, a board spokesman said.

Those who died in the in­ferno were sleep­ing be­low deck and could not es­cape the flames. Crew mem­bers above deck were able to jump over­board to safety.

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors last week con­cluded their ex­am­i­na­tion of the charred wreck­age, but of­fi­cials said Fri­day that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins and cause of the blaze was far from over.

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