(KGTV) -- The National Transportation Safety Board ruled Tuesday that the lack of adequate oversight by Truth Aquatics Inc. led to a boat fire that killed 34 people off Santa Cruz Island last year.
San Diegan Nicole Quitasol and four of her family members were among the 34 killed in the September 2019 blaze.
The NTSB said Tuesday that the fire aboard the Conception diving boat is one of the deadliest maritime tragedies in the United States.
“The message is clean up your act, follow your procedures,” said board chairman Robert Sumwalt while speaking about Truth Aquatics Inc.
The investigation revealed the 33 passengers and one crewmember killed were in the bunkroom and unable to escape before being overcome with smoke.
Investigators told the NTSB some of the victims had on shoes, indicating that they were awake and trying to get out at the time of the fire.
Smoke inhalation was listed as the cause of death for all victims.
All 34 were two decks below the area where five crewmembers were asleep in the upper deck. The five crewmembers survived.
The NTSB agreed on 18 key findings in the investigation, including that the lack of required roving night watchmen and lack of smoke detectors in the salon area of the boat delayed the detection of the fire by crew members, leading to the high number of fatalities.
While the fire's exact cause was not determined, the NTSB said it could have possibly been caused by charging electronics and lithium-ion batteries.
As a result of its investigation, the NTSB made ten new safety recommendations for the U.S. Coast Guard and others in the industry. Some of the recommendations including a requirement that all newly constructed vessels with overnight accommodations have smoke detectors in all accommodation spaces and that the vessels provide a secondary means of escape into a different space than the primary exit so that a single fire should not affect both escape hatches.
“The recommendations that we’ve issued today if implemented that’s the key, if implemented, would reduce the risk of future passenger vessel fires going undetected it would ensure that escape routes exit to different spaces improving the chances for survival for passengers and crew,” said Sumwalt.