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US Coast Guard warns against leaving cellphones to charge unsupervised after boat fire left 34 dead


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The US Coast Guard issued a safety bulletin in the wake of a fatal California boat fire on Labor Day that left 34 people dead, warning against leaving unsupervised cell phones and other electronics charging on vessels.

Recommendations in the bulletin said boat operators should ‘reduce potential fire hazards and consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.’

The bulletin was issued as a Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation determines what caused the fire that destroyed the dive ship Conception off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. 

A survivor from the blaze has said that the fire may have started in an area where electronics were left charging on the boat. 

The Coast Guard noted it does not have to wait on its own board’s findings before taking ‘immediate and positive’ action, reports USA TODAY. 

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board, which is also investigating the fire, released its own brief, preliminary report on the blaze Thursday, without mentioning the cause.

The US Coast Guard issued a safety bulletin in the wake of a fatal boat fire near Santa Cruz Island, California, on Labor Day that left 34 people dead, warning against leaving unsupervised cell phones and other electronics charging on vessels

Recommendations in the bulletin said boat operators should "reduce potential fire hazards and consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords"

Recommendations in the bulletin said boat operators should ‘reduce potential fire hazards and consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords’

The bulletin was issued as a Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation determines what caused the fire that destroyed the Conception. The Coast Guard noted it does not have to wait on its own board's findings before taking 'immediate and positive' action

The bulletin was issued as a Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation determines what caused the fire that destroyed the Conception. The Coast Guard noted it does not have to wait on its own board’s findings before taking ‘immediate and positive’ action

Five crew members, including the captain, managed to escape after the pre-dawn inferno that engulfed the Conception, as victims slept below decks.

Flames moved so quickly through the 75-foot vessel that it blocked a narrow stairway and an escape hatch leading to the upper decks, giving those below virtually no chance of escaping, authorities said. 

The incinerated boat eventually sank and overturned, making the recovery of bodies challenging. DNA will be needed to identify the victims. 

‘The intensity of the fire surprised people,’ Peter Goelz, former NTSB managing director told USA TODAY. ‘If it was being fed by lithium batteries, that might explain it.’

Goelz had never heard of charging stations linked to a boat fire. But he did note that on commercial airplanes, crew members have gloves, tongs and flame-smothering bags if needed in an emergency.

The Conception could very well have had a high number of cellphones and other electronics on board given the number of people on board over the holiday weekend, he said. 

The incinerated boat (above) eventually sank and overturned, making the recovery of bodies challenging. DNA will be needed to identify the victims

The incinerated boat (above) eventually sank and overturned, making the recovery of bodies challenging. DNA will be needed to identify the victims

He also pointed out the survivor who mentioned the fire may have been triggered by the area where electronics were left charging. 

‘I’ve heard that a lot of attention is going there,’ Goelz told USA TODAY. 

‘Did they have a charging station of epic proportions? Were electronics stacked up? We don’t know yet.’

Investigators are also looking at escape hatches. 

The NTSB report found that that all six crew members were asleep when the fire broke out. At least one should have been awake, according to federal regulations, when the fire broke out around 3 a.m.

One of five crew members asleep in the wheelhouse did awake upon hearing a noise, the NTSB said, and found a fire rising from a compartment below. The crew member awakened the other ship’s crew and the captain radioed for hep, the report said.

Crew members unsuccessfully tried to reach a bunk area where passengers and the sixth crew member were sleeping. 

The captain and two others dove into the water and and re-entered the boat from another area, but still couldn’t get to the passengers because of flames. The two then launched a small skiff, rescued two more crew members and ended up on a nearby recreational boat.

‘Local Coast Guard and fire departments arrived on scene to extinguish the fire and conduct search and rescue,’ the report said. ‘The vessel burned to the waterline by morning and subsequently sank in about 60 feet of water.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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