I've been diving off the Conception many times

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/09/03/ive-been-diving-on-the-conce.html


So many terrible ironies in this story. As a sailor and surfer, I’ve lost friends and acquaintances to the sea over the years. It is a powerful, compelling force, but respect must be paid - tragedy is close at hand. Peace to the bereaved.


Santa Cruz Island is such a magical place. I live in Ventura and I can’t help looking at the island now without tearing up. It’s so sad. :frowning:

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I was on the Conception for a weekend dive trip with Truth Aquatics, about 2 years ago. We had I think 12-14 divers total (no other passengers), and the sleeping quarters seemed cramped with that. I can’t imagine 24+ people down there, and trying to get out. There is one spiral-ish staircase in/out. I guess there is another emergency hatch, but I don’t remember it.


From the two upper rear center bunks there is a hatch between the two fridges.

I had that bunk several times.


We’ve had some bad luck in our area lately. The Thomas Fire, the mudslides that followed, the Borderline shooting, and now this.

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Just heard of this. Sounds really awful.

Fun fact - my grandpa was a career Coastie. Was Chief Warrant officer.

A days-long live-aboard dive trip would be an epic bucket list item for me, and I’ve considered doing it at the Channel Islands. Listening to an update on the radio this morning, they mentioned that the people onboard had celebrated three birthdays just hours before, and that one victim was 17 years old. Somehow, those two facts just made me choke up. Awful tragedy, I’m so sorry and so sad…


My condolences to all who are affected by this loss.

I have my PADI Open Water cert, and while I’m not a very experienced diver, my experiences diving have literally been some of the most amazing and joyful of my life. It really is an incredible thing to do – I have to think it’s the closest many of us will come to experiencing a totally “alien” landscape. Of course not alien at all, but certainly to most people who don’t dive.

With that said, at least these folks passed on doing something that they loved. Doesn’t make their deaths any easier to deal with, but it’s also a signifier that they were the types of folks to follow their passions and love of the ocean and its lifeforms, and that’s mighty fine praise if you ask me.

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This is an awful story :frowning:

I listened to the mayday call… the crewmember who called it in had no idea about fire suppression gear, no idea about life jackets/ supplies, no idea about passenger egress, no idea about emergency procedures… those poor people. It was a deathtrap.


It seems like Truth Aquatics has been coasting on their safety record without actually being that safe. All the crew got off the boat and none of the passengers. That feels like negligence to me.

I used to lead people on wilderness adventure trips and the idea of abandoning the people for whom I was responsible is inconceivable. My son did a multi-day trip on one of their other boats a few weeks ago; he had a great time. But now I know that he rolled the dice and won. I am enraged by their incompetence with other people’s lives.

Not something to wake up to when our clock radio went off that morning. I immediately texted friends – a wife and husband dive team known for their videos. They dive all over. Text came back: Both okay. They skipped diving this weekend.


The crew cabin is 2 levels above the passenger bunks. It makes absolute sense for the crew who escaped to have done so if the fire was blazing fast. The injuries they were described as having sustained are consistent with the 30’+ jump to the water they made.

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I’m sure that the crew are all delightful people and in the situation in which they found themselves, their actions are justifiable. But that just raises more questions. It is easy to be awesome when everything goes the way you expect. It is less easy when things don’t. So:

  1. Were the crew all asleep when the fire started? Did they have an anchor watch going, so one could catch things like fires before they consume the whole vessel?
  2. If they were all asleep was that a personal failing of whoever was supposed to be awake or is it company policy to assume nothing bad will happen after it gets dark?
  3. How is that a fire was able to get started and accelerate so quickly? That seems like poor maintenance (grease and oil not cleaned up properly and flammable materials allowed to accumulate).
  4. Given that a fire started, what kind of systems were in place to detect and hopefully suppress it? Based on what I’ve heard, none and none.

As I said, I’m sure the crew are all delightful people, but this wasn’t something that just happened. This was a preventable (or at least containable) event that was in no way handled properly. And trusting the crew to handle emergencies is one of the things that you and my son pay for with the couple hundred dollars a day cost of the trip.

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At very least the fact that they didn’t seem to drill this or practice it to the point that the crewmember who called it in knew it by heart is a sign of severe negligence.

You drill and drill and drill so you don’t need to dig deep to find procedures when life is on the line. This clearly wasn’t done here by nature of the mayday calls from that crew member. Contrast that with mayday or panpan calls from airline pilots who are responsible for the lives of people and you hear a level of professionalism that just wasn’t present on that boat.

That’s not a judgement of them as people, but as sailors, they’re leaving a great deal to be desired and this should absolutely financially end that business.

I was interviewed by my local news media about the layout of the boat and its safety features. Some of my pictures were used in their B-roll.


Monday morning, everyone is a genius quarterback. Many major disasters were preventable in the hindsight. Until then, it’s not always as obvious as it seems to know what dangers are lurking and what to prepare for.

Avoiding known dangers are what established safety standards and procedures are for. The crew could only be called unprofessional if they violated those standards. Have they? There is an ongoing investigation to answer this precise question, among others. Until there is an answer from real experts with access to facts, it’s not only wise but decent to hold your judgment of the crew, both as people and as sailors. It’s too easy to criticize in the comfort of your armchair someone calling in mayday literally from the top of a bonfire for lack of calm collected professionalism.

It is tragic. I had two friends (that I know of so far) on that boat, one of them in the past my regular dive buddy. Should the business be allowed to continue to operate? If this was their fault, which is a possibility, the answer is no. If this was a genuine accident, which is also a possibility, the answer is yes, and there should be new safety regulations to prevent this from happening ever again. The investigation will answer which it was.

Nobody here is literally “vouching” for the crew. They are just sharing their experience, which never showed any sort of (known) disregard of passenger safety. I was on more of those trips than I can remember, and I’ll say they same.

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