Coast Guard issues warning about lithium batteries, power strips after deadly California boat fire

Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via AP

Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via AP

Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard asked boaters to consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries as authorities investigate what caused a deadly boat fire off the coast of California earlier this month.

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In a USCG marine safety information bulletin released this week, officials asked boat owners and operators to review their routes and emergency procedures. They also recommended a review of ship firefighting and lifesaving equipment and recommended ship operators reduce potential fire hazards.

"Consider limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords," the safety bulletin said.

Authorities said 34 people died in the pre-dawn hours Sept. 2 after the Conception caught fire and sank near Santa Cruz Island. The victims were believed to have been asleep when the fire started. Five of the boat's six crew members were rescued and survived the blaze, officials said.

The Conception was on the final night of its three-day Labor Day weekend voyage to the Channel Islands when it caught fire, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Investigators continued Friday to probe the source of the blaze. Unidentified law enforcement sources told The Los Angeles Times last week that a preliminary investigation "suggested serious safety deficiencies aboard the Conception," including the lack of a roaming night watchman and inadequate training for crew members in the event of an emergency.

Jennifer Homendy, an NTSB board member, previously said investigators were examining the engineering and wiring of the 75-foot Conception, according to CNN.

"We are aware that there was a lot of gear on board with the cameras and the crew, cameras, phones, extra batteries. And chargers," she said.

Officials with NTSB said a crew member woke early on Labor Day to find flames licking up from the salon in the forward, starboard corner of the compartment. Crew members radioed a distress message to the Coast Guard and tried to access the compartment where the other crew member and the passengers were sleeping, but officials said the compartment was fully engulfed by the fire. One surviving crew member suffered a broken leg as the crew tried to reach the others onboard.

Eventually, they jumped overboard.

Two crew members and the boat's captain re-boarded the vessel, according to the NTSB, but they were still unable to get to the other people on board the ship. They launched a skiff to rescue the two crew members who remained in the water and sought help from a boat anchored nearby, a recreation vessel dubbed the Grape Escape.

Authorities said Wednesday that they recovered the last of the victims of the water. Officials were using DNA testing to confirm their identities.

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