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Santa Barbara - South County

Small Vessel Safety Act introduced after Conception dive boat fire is now law

Conception memorial
Tracy Lehr / NewsChannel 3-12

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Small Passenger Vessel Safety Act became law when the House and Senate voted on Friday to override the President's defense bill veto.

Congressman Salud Carbajal said the bill he introduced with Congressmember Julia Brownley and Senator Dianne Feinstein directs the Coast Guard to implement small passenger vessel safety reforms.

"This means the Coast Guard must now implement safety measures that would avoid a similar tragedy like the Conception boat fire," said Carbajal.

Investigators never could pinpoint the cause the conception fire.

The new law requires more fire protection equipment, crew training , better handling of lithium ion batteries and at least two avenues of escape.

Older boats will no longer be exempt from new regulations.

The fire on the Conception operated by Truth Aquatics left 33 passengers and a crew member dead on Labor Day weekend in 2019 . The fire started when the entire crew was asleep.

Boaters walking near the memorial along the Santa Barbara Breakwall think new safety measures are necessary.

Charlie Perkins said, "Whatever it takes to get it into law I'm all for it you know it is so hard to get things passed through legislation today so this is really a good sign"

Tim Thompson said, "You go on a boat trip and you think that you are safe, so to know that has been passed is great news."

Many boaters didn't realize it was part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

TowBoat US owner and Captain Paul Amaral was part of the rescue and recovery effort the morning of the fire. He said, "It's been over a year now since the fire on the dive boat Conception."

He said he thinks about the people who died every day as he works on the water helping boaters and boats get safely back to shore.

"Since then a lot of agencies a lot of people have tried to determine what happened, a lot of lessons have been learned and now with passage the safety act hopefully those lessons will be put into affect and we can prevent this from ever happening again. I applaud our Congressional representatives from putting this bill forward and getting it passed. My hopes are that no one ever experiences anything like this ever again," said Amaral.

Congressman Carbajal hopes the law will honor the lives lost.

Carbajal said, "I am am really looking forward to making sure that this law gets implemented and we avoid similar tragedies in the future."

Local Politics / Money and Business / Politics / Safety
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Tracy Lehr

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

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