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34 Dead in California Boat Fire


We have been informed by Samsung news/media of the harrowing tragedy of what happened on Conception a dive boat in California, USA, that caught fire with 5 crew who survived but 34 passengers reportedly perished in the boat’s inferno.  We are unable to confirm or deny these figures. The dead were below deck sleeping and the flames based on eyewitness accounts were so overpowering that it prevented any real rescue to allow for the survival of
these victims.


There seems to have been no fire alarm and other safety apparatus according to an unknown witness as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has begun its investigation,  as is usual, in this most unfortunate tragedy.  Report is that at about 2:30 AM an alarm was either made or fire was discovered on board a dive boat with 34 passengers sleeping below deck and 5 crew members on deck.  A survivor broke a leg trying to escape the inferno.

Criminal Liability 

It is not my intention to attempt to try this matter even before pertinent facts have been uncovered.  So any commentary is purely speculative and is intended to educate you my readers on possible courses of action which could arise from this investigation.  There is no attempt also to in any way prejudice this enquiry and cause an unbiased opinion/conclusion to be arrived at.  Any possible findings could be far-reaching and even criminal in nature.

Safety Concerns

For example If alleged eyewitness account that led to the speculation that there was possible fire safety inadequacy … it should be noted that this is not a finding of fact.  Therefore not necessarily an avenue for criminal Liability.  Forensic evidence has to be unearthed to conclude that this is a fact.

Possible Findings 

When the investigation is concluded it could be found that this was a genuine accident or there was negligence and no one can be held criminally liable. This does not have to be so.

Possible Questions

How did the fire start?  Where? In the kitchen or in a cabin?  Were fire extinguisher(s) on deck? Was anyone smoking in their cabin and fell asleep leaving a lit cigarette? Was the integrity of what is now a crime scene in any way compromised?  Was there adequate escape routes? Was escape route adequate and were they blocked? Was there overcrowding which could have led to panic when alarm was sounded thereby blocking escape route?  Was there smoke detectors and were they functioning? Was there a watchperson who could have acted as an early warning signal when smoke was first detected or seen?  Hopefully these and other questions will be answered during the course of this investigation.


The NTSB has its work cut out.  It has to coordinate with other agencies like: the fire Marshal’s Office, the Coroner, Law Enforcement to name a few.  Also interviews with the surviving crew members. Were any pictures or video taken before, during or immediately after the incident which could assist in arriving at the truth of what happened that faithful night.


We regret the loss of lives which is said to be 37. Was this most unfortunate and tragic incident avoidable or the loss of so many lives could be greatly minimized?  As usual we await the findings of the investigations.  We think it will not be a quickie. It appears to be detailed work if it is to be carried out thorough as the implications could be far-reaching and findings of fact could help to prevent future such tragic incidents. We regret the loss of lives and condolence to those who are left to grieve.

Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is a veteran journalist who has worked in at least three continents as a writer. He is also Senior International Correspondent for Vision Newspaper.

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