Santa Barbara- S County

NTSB: Conception crew interviews reveal "harrowing" escape and attempted passenger rescues

NTSB Conception crew interviews...

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - We're finally learning more about the harrowing moments on the Conception as fire engulfed the dive boat and how crew members tried to rescue their passengers.

The NTSB held their final news conference Thursday, sharing details from their interviews with those aboard for the first time with the public.

When asked if the crew did the right thing, the NTSB said that it was their job to develop a timeline and evaluate it as they're still investigating and talking to those that survived. 

Crew members aboard the Conception awoke to a pre-dawn inferno, one man told investigators he heard a noise, left his bunk in the wheelhouse, and saw flames from the galley.

"He tried to get down a ladder, flames had engulfed the ladder so the crew that was on the bridge had jumped down to the main deck and one had broken their leg," said Jennifer Homendy, NTSB Safety Board. 

The crew that did jump down then tried to save the 34 people who were trapped by the fire and died. 

"They went to the double doors of the galley to try and get in to get to the passengers but it was engulfed in flames at that time," said Homendy.

The NTSB says the crew then tried to rescue passengers from a second location from the front of the dive boat but couldn't get in through the windows.

"Due to heat, flames and smoke, the crew had to jump from the boat and two of the crew members swam to the back of the vessel to the skiff," said Homendy. 

After retrieving the other two remaining crews members, the Conception employees told investigators that they made their way to a nearby boat and tried calling 911.

"At that point, they left the vessel and returned back to the Conception in the skiff to try and rescue any survivors," said Homendy.

The NTSB says they are not ruling out any possible ignition sources, focusing on everything including the electrical system and wiring.

"There was a lot of photography, videography, cameras, cell phones that were charging," said Homendy. 

From here, officials say the investigation is focused on vessel recovery and divers are currently assessing the accident site and what's needed to recover the charred wreckage sitting 65 feet below, on the ocean floor. 

Crew members told officials that they didn't remember hearing any smoke alarms going off but we know the devices were up to code and it wasn't required that they be wired into the wheelhouse.

Investigators will remain on scene for at least another week and work will continue in Washington where they will issue a preliminary report. 

Homendy says if they have any safety issues or concerns, officials will issue urgent safety recommendations. 

Watch the Friday press briefing

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