The U.S. Coast Guard issued a safety bulletin advising all commercial boat operators to limit the unsupervised charging of cellphones and other electronics, following a fire that claimed 34 lives on a scuba diving boat off the coast of Southern California over Labor Day weekend.
Investigators are looking into several possible causes of the early morning fire that flared up on the Conception scuba diving boat, including how batteries and electronics were stored on the 75-foot commercial vessel. A Marine Board of Investigations has been convened by Coast Guard assistant commandant for prevention policy, Rear Admiral Richard Timme, to look into the deadly fire that erupted Sept. 2 off the coast of Santa Cruz Island.
“In some instances, our marine casualty boards identify pressing safety issues related to vessel stability, the engine room, or lifesaving and firefighting equipment,” said Capt. Jason Neubauer, chair of the Marine Board of Investigation. “In those instances, we issue safety alerts or bulletins."
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the body of the last missing victim was found, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said.
"Search and recovery efforts today were successful in locating the last missing victim," the sheriff’s office tweeted. DNA testing is being used to confirm the identities of seven victims, the sheriff's office added.
Five crew members, who were awake at the time of the fire, managed to get off the boat and survived.
The investigation into the fire is expected to take a year or longer to complete, but said any urgent safety actions could be implemented before the Board reaches its conclusions.
During the course of the investigation, which will consist of witness interviews, public hearings and evidence collection and analysis, panel members will decide:
- The factors that contributed to the accident;
- Whether there is evidence that any act of misconduct, inattention to duty, negligence or willful violation of the law on the part of any licensed or certificated person contributed to the casualty; and
- Whether there is evidence that any Coast Guard personnel or any representative or employee of any other government agency or any other person caused or contributed to the casualty.
Other agencies, including the National Transportation Safety Board, the Coast Guard, FBI and Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will work to support a Justice Department investigation, the Coast Guard said.
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