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2019-09-12 16:49 by Karl Denninger
in Editorial , 94 references Ignore this thread
Conception Preliminary Report
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Well look what we have here....

The wood and fiberglass vessel was built in 1981. The vessel had three levels: the uppermost sun deck, containing the wheelhouse and crew rooms; the main deck, which included the salon and galley; and the lower deck within the hull, which housed the passenger berthing (bunkroom) and shower room, as well as the engine room and tanks.

Initial interviews of three crewmembers revealed that no mechanical or electrical issues were reported. At the time of the fire, five crewmembers were asleep in berths behind the wheelhouse, and one crewmember was asleep in the bunkroom, which was accessed from the salon down a ladderwell in the forward, starboard corner of the compartment. The bunkroom had an
emergency escape hatch located on the aft end, which also exited to the salon. There were two, locally-sounding smoke detectors in the overhead of the bunkroom.

A crewmember sleeping in the wheelhouse berths was awakened by a noise and got up to investigate. He saw a fire at the aft end of the sun deck, rising up from the salon compartment below. The crewmember alerted the crew behind the wheelhouse. As crewmembers awoke, the captain radioed a distress message to the Coast Guard.

Faux Snooz says that a "required" overnight watch was not being maintained.

If there's something in the inspected vessel regs for small inspected passenger vessels then I missed it and would like to see it as that materially changes my view when it comes to negligence.

And.. guess what -- there is, in the CFRs for under 100GT vessels, which I wasn't aware of:

§ 185.410 Watchmen.
The owner, charterer, master, or managing operator of a vessel carrying overnight passengers shall have a suitable number of watchmen patrol throughout the vessel during the nighttime, whether or not the vessel is underway, to guard against, and give alarm in case of, a fire, man overboard, or other dangerous situation.

Now we got something; CFRs have the force of law, so there you have it even though it certainly wouldn't be where'd I'd first expect to look for something like this.  Even at anchor, at night, you have to have a watch posted if customers are on board overnight including for small passenger vessels under 100 Gross Tons.  This was last amended, it appears, in 1997.

The "salon" would be aft the galley.  The galley is where the escape hatch and main stairs exited into from the bunkroom.  That fire was observed coming from the salon does not mean it originated there, but it also doesn't mean it originated in the galley; it could have originated in the machinery space below -- although that is looking somewhat less-likely.

BTW galley spaces typically do not have automated fire gear nor automated alarms for the same reason you don't put a smoke detector in your kitchen -- it will go off on a nuisance basis daily and if you had an automated fire bottle linked to it you'd constantly have THAT going off too.  Never mind that when the galley is actually being used there's someone in there to raise an alarm and manually discharge the fire bottle.

The crewmembers attempted to access the salon and passengers below. Unable to use the aft ladder, which was on fire, the crewmembers jumped down to the main deck (one crewmember broke his leg in the process) and tried to access the salon and galley compartment, which was fully engulfed by fire at the aft end and by thick smoke in the forward end, through a forward window. Unable to open the window and overwhelmed by smoke, the crew jumped overboard.

This implies that the fire itself may not have begun in the galley -- which is where it was reported that people had been charging batteries.  Unfortunately this part of the report doesn't provide help in expanding where the fire originated -- except that if the alarm panel was functional and the sounder active and the fire originated in the machinery space the alarm should have sounded audibly on the bridge.  That it didn't means either the fire didn't originate there or the alarm did not sound (either because it wasn't working or it had been intentionally silenced.)  Further, if the CO2 system had discharged nobody would have been questioning that or slept through it -- you wouldn't believe how loud those are when they go off.  But, as I previously noted, if the bottle wasn't in said machinery space that system could have legally been installed with a manual rather than automated discharge.

But..... there is also an AP report in which one of the crew members allegedly pulled the engine room hatch before abandoning the ship and found no fire.  If so then a machinery space problem appears to be ruled out.

They're raising the vessel and I'm sure they'll quickly determine (if they don't already know) whether the fire bottle in the machinery space was automated or not.  It shouldn't take long to rule out the machinery space as the origin point, if indeed it started in the galley or salon and either confirm or refute the claims made thus far.

It's entirely possible that the fire originated in the galley or immediate vicinity of same and the cause was electrical in nature, perhaps due to charging batteries.  Lithium batteries are a known fire risk and these days dive lights and scooters (DPVs) have largely moved toward them -- and these are pretty high-energy packs too, especially video setups and DPVs.

In any event since the CFRs do actually require a night watch, and it appears the entire crew was sleeping, I'd say off the top of my head they're ****ed.  While the owners might be able to play admiralty law to evade financial consequences that won't help avoid a potential criminal indictment for negligence and there's plenty of law on that point too.

Here we go.

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Posts: 3506
Incept: 2009-09-11

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Not sure if a 'watch' means continuous, but the owner's attorney says someone checked around 2:30 am.

None of the crew members were awake on night watch, the NTSB said.

But an attorney for the owner of the scuba diving boat disputed federal investigators claims that all six of the vessels crew members were sleeping when the blaze erupted in the middle of the night.

Douglas Schwartz, attorney for Truth Aquatics, says a crew member checked on and around the galley area around 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 2.
Posts: 142
Incept: 2012-04-26

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STOP...just stop with the "good enough to pass inspection" garbage!!! Think about yer cargo (human lives in this case) and how cheap it is to tack onto the safety of said cargo by way of redundancy of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. These ****ing low buck items are a no-brainer, must-have items that require a NEW 9 volt battery/trip added into the cost each trip!!!

Please God, take it all away...we don't deserve what we have!

"I find medicine is the best of all trades, because whether you do any good or not, you still get your money." -Moliere "A Physician in Spite of Himself" 1664
Posts: 158977
Incept: 2007-06-26
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They had smoke detectors (2) in the berthing space the fire was apparently above them and smoke rises so they didn't pick it up.

BTW on a diesel vessel you don't need a CO detector. Diesels produce little enough CO that it's not a material factor (the stink of the exhaust, on the other hand, will likely wake the dead.) What IS a factor if there's propane on board is a detector for that -- not due to suffocation risk but rather due to the risk of a propane explosion if there is a leak. This of course assumes you have propane on board; if not then again it's a non-factor.

Winding it down.

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