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Congressional hearing probes deadly Conception boat fire

Conception memorial
Tracy Lehr / KEYT


At the request of local Democratic Rep. Salud Carbajal, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met Thursday to question leaders of the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The hearing comes in the wake of the deadly Labor Day fire that gutted the diving boat Conception. 34 people who were sleeping in the boat anchored off Santa Cruz Island died in the blaze.

In his opening statement, Carbajal said:

“On September 2nd, we tragically lost 34 lives when the Conception dive boat caught on fire at 3:14 a.m. off the coast of my district in California. 

“This was the worst maritime disaster in 70 years. My condolences go out to the families of those victims. 

“Let me say that I am very grateful to the Coast Guard for their help in the search and rescue operations and to the NTSB for their continued investigation into what went wrong. 

“And, while I want to recognize the Coast Guard men and women for just doing a heroic job day in and day out on their mission—and I have a number of servicemembers in my district that do an outstanding job—I must say that, when you look at the track record of implementing the NTSB’s recommendations, it is not a good track record. 

“And since, over the years, we’ve seen tragedy after tragedy after tragedy happen, and the Coast Guard has a track record of inaction.

“While it is my understanding the NTSB is still conducting their investigation, I am disturbed by some of the reporting following this tragedy. 

“I am particularly concerned by the fact that the NTSB has continuously—for many years—advocated for the Coast Guard to implement procedures for conducting regular inspections, reporting maintenance needs for all of a boat’s system and crew training. Yet the Coast Guard has ignored many of these recommendations.

“What actions has the Coast Guard taken to make sure those recommendations are implemented, and why have they not been implemented to date? 

“It has been brought to my attention that Conception was operating under ‘old T’ safety requirements—meaning they were not following the most up to date safety rules. 

“What are some of the safety implications to continue to operate under this framework? And why—why—do we need to wait until another tragedy to change our current safety rules?”

Video from the hearing is here:

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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