Seaman’s Manslaughter

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Sandydog

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Mar 18, 2017
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What a bad joke this has turned into. Page after page of smoke detector garbage and still no discussion or information about where hand held fire extinguishers are on a boat? I guess they are illegal on a boat or everyone on the boat would be unable to operate them while listening to the smoke detectors? With fire blocking your exit there would have been a half a chance if below deck there was a fire extinguisher capable of being discharged to create a moment of possible escape. WHY is this part of the equation not part of the solution??????????????
I am about to go rex
If as speculated this fire began with lithium batteries being recharged, then fire extinguishers are of limited use. The traditional fire triangle is based on fuel, oxygen, and a heat (energy) source. Deprive the fire of any one of these three and it goes out.

You can't do anything about the fuel. Most fire extinguishers work by removing oxygen (water, CO2, halon, foam). A few remove heat (powder, water).

Lithium battery fires are tricky because they don't rely on oxygen. The fire you see is actually other stuff like the plastic casing burning. A CO2 or halon extinguisher will put out that fire, but won't do squat against the lithium cells igniting from thermal runaway.

To stop a lithium battery fire, you need to (1) put out any fire on the casing material and surroundings - that fire can damage more cells causing them to self-ignite. (2) Remove the heat from the damaged cells which are self-igniting. That heat will damage adjacent cells, causing them to enter thermal runaway and begin igniting as well. An oxygen-blocking agent like foam will actually make a lithium battery fire worse for this reason. It acts as an insulator, trapping the heat and making it easier to send undamaged cells into thermal runaway.


The powder-type extinguishers are effective (the powder absorbs heat energy, much like water does). And granted they're the most common type of extinguisher. But you only get about 9 seconds worth of powder from a single extinguisher. Depending on the number of batteries and how hot it's already gotten, there may not be enough powder to stop the thermal runaway cycle from spreading to other cells, and the battery fire will re-ignite shortly after the extinguisher has put the flames out.

So if someone was awake and it was a battery fire, it's very possible the fire extinguishers were in fact used, without success.

tl;dr - Lithium battery fires are really, really bad news. And even traditional fire extinguishers have a hard time putting them out. In a closed environment like aboard a plane or inside a boat, you really should treat them like a bomb, because that's pretty much what they are.

because no one involved has specifically said that they that did go off. oft times, what is not said is huge.
the crewman who awoke to the fire said that he heard "something". Not "the smoke detectors woke me up".
It was a peacefully quiet night in a cove. If a smoke detector had gone off, it would have been heard throughout the cove and over to the other boat. But those folk said nothing in regards hearing a smoke alarm. Neither did ANY of the crew. Nor was it mentioned in the most recent report.
Most smoke detector alarms are high-pitched. High-pitched sounds don't travel very far. When my kitchen smoke detector goes off because we're cooking something, it's ear-piercing in the kitchen. One room over around the corner, it's audible but no longer annoying. If I go one room further (like a bathroom) and close the door, it's muffled to the point where it's nearly ignorable. I could easily imagine someone sleeping through that.

The crew was sleeping two floors up from the passenger compartment, and from their description of how they reacted to seeing the fire, it sounds like the stairwell led to their level via the outside rather than directly to their sleeping berths. They very well might not have heard an alarm going off in the passenger compartment. (The issue of smoke detectors in the galley and a night watch has already been hashed over. Though I would add that a larger boat really should have interconnected smoke detectors - so all their alarms go off if a single one detects smoke.)

The effect is even more dramatic in open air. A high-pitched sound can attenuate to 1/8 its volume in less than 100 feet depending on the weather conditions. This is on top of the normal attenuation with distance. It's why foghorns are low-pitched - because the low-pitched sounds suffer less attenuation in the air, so you can hear them from much further away.
 
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Ratshirt

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MYNomad

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What size does a boat have to become to be a ship?Tom
I suspect you know the answer better than most anyone here, but since you asked, the right answer may be >65'. Years ago (so my memory is hazzy), when I first started thinking about my next boat (the one that ended up being my current boat), I was prepared to go into the 70' range but as I recall, 65 feet is a magic number above which a bunch of additional regulations and insurance requirements apply. As I recall, those requirements are referred to as being applicable to "ships" vs. "boats". In a similar vein, "small craft" generally refer to boats smaller than 10 meters.


I was always told you can put a boat on a ship ,but you can't put a ship on a boat.
But, that doesn't mean you can't put a boat on a boat, as is the case with my boat and its dinghy (which I regard as a boat because it is bigger, more powerful, and more seaworthy than my first boat).
 

af dreamer

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I can not hear the smoke detectors in my house!I have looked into getting a few for the hearing impaired.House ones are at something like 3000 decibels and the hearing impaired ones are like 500.What triggered this is the other night I was in the guest bedroom and my wife came in a told me one was going off and I could not hear it 10 ft away from it.Tom
 

PacificBlue

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I can not hear the smoke detectors in my house!I have looked into getting a few for the hearing impaired.House ones are at something like 3000 decibels and the hearing impaired ones are like 500.What triggered this is the other night I was in the guest bedroom and my wife came in a told me one was going off and I could not hear it 10 ft away from it.Tom
Dang Tom, that’s a lot of years being exposed to noisy Detroit Diesels!
 

Grumpiest1

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Most sport boat captains have a 100 ton license. If you want to know about small passenger vessels look at Sub chapter T Code of Federal Regulations. CFR 46 I think. This small bible is what provides the requirements for the boats we ride. These passenger vessels get their designation by tons with some arcane formula having to do with below deck compartments. With this formula the larger sport boats like the Excel and Independence are still 99 ton vessels. I ran a small supply boat that was 175 feet and still had a 99 ton rating. If someone can explain this formula I'd like to hear. At one time it had to do with bushels of wheat (maybe or corn or something) I think. Anyway they don't put a boat on a scale.
 

Done_Deal

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To answer questions about the fire extinguishers, in addition to the automatic engine room the Conception was required to carry 5 portable units.
See the attached Certificate of Inspection.
 

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Larmo

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Facing a possible 34 counts of manslaughter, what do you think the $150/15 hour day deckhand said when he was interviewed by the FBI, CG and NTSB? (“The captain told me to sleep.”)

What do you suppose the Captain said when he was interviewed?

What do you suppose the search warrant was looking for?
 

mooose29

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So one of the things I can’t get my head around is that it seems from what I have read in many different articles and forum posts is that the passengers were all deceased from smoke inhalation an no one died from fire injuries. In a room full of 34 men and women not a single one tried to get out? Is that how everyone else reads it? I can’t even imagine what that must have been like but it seems to me highly unlikely that if the passengers were alerted as to what was going above them that not a single person wouldn’t have tried to get out. None of us can know the horror such a decision would be like but survival at all costs is a basic desire in most humans. So I am thinking if they knew at least some would have tried to get out don’t you think?

So that makes me think is it possible that the fire burned so hot and quick that the oxygen was sucked up from the bunk room and all passengers were incapacitated before any action could be taken and before they even woke up? I pray this was the case as it seems the most humane?

I shudder at the thought and pray none of us are ever in this position, and that some good can come from the tragedy with safer ships and crew requirements/requirements.
 

Day0ne

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Aggro

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PSA: anyone who cant hear a smoke alarm when it goes off needs to get their hearing checked....and add more smoke detectors throughout their house :D
receipt for the smoke detectors. what do I win?
After being in the wheelhouse all night I finally got home around 3 am. I was so tired I didn't even bother with the gear. After a quick dip in the pool I passed out on the couch. At 4 am my wife was shaking me violently and as I woke she asked me if I was deaf. The smoke alarm was full tilt but I couldn't hear it because of hours listening to the same sound from the engines. It was only a low battery. It was scary that the tone was the same as those loud diesels.
 
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af dreamer

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I have had my hearing checked many time,nothing really changed,lost the upper range from years of shotgun shooting.As I said the regular house smoke alarms are way up in the freq range.Look into it your self if your so interested.Tom
 
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Steve Francis

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Most sport boat captains have a 100 ton license. If you want to know about small passenger vessels look at Sub chapter T Code of Federal Regulations. CFR 46 I think. This small bible is what provides the requirements for the boats we ride. These passenger vessels get their designation by tons with some arcane formula having to do with below deck compartments. With this formula the larger sport boats like the Excel and Independence are still 99 ton vessels. I ran a small supply boat that was 175 feet and still had a 99 ton rating. If someone can explain this formula I'd like to hear. At one time it had to do with bushels of wheat (maybe or corn or something) I think. Anyway they don't put a boat on a scale.
Totally true. Typically the tonnage of a vessel is listed as GROSS tonnage. This number has absolutely nothing to do with the weight of the vessel. It is a complicated calculation that has to do with cubic cargo carrying capacity. Even passenger carrying vessels are rated by their Gross Tons and they carry no cargo. Crew licensing tonnage can also be difficult to understand. At one point if you had sufficient sea time and could pass a comprehensive CG exam you could receive a 300T Masters License. But, if you also passed the required testing to get a "Radar Endorsment" the CG increased you to a 500T Masters License. Again, not a darn thing to do with the weight of the vessel.

Displacement tonnage is interesting. If you could weigh the water within the "hole" in the water a boat/ship makes when floating and stopped, it would exactly equal the weight of the vessel and its contents. It is one of the Laws of Physics and one of the reasons a boat floats. Sometimes known as "Archimedes Principle".

IMHO - all vessels are boats. Some are even classified as BFBs, Big F'in Boats.
 
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Steve Francis

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To answer questions about the fire extinguishers, in addition to the automatic engine room the Conception was required to carry 5 portable units.
See the attached Certificate of Inspection.
Good post. Likely many have never even seen a Certificate of Inspection - COI. Lots of information here. Recall early on when an apparent attorney said the crew even took the time to launch one of the vessel's life rafts and escape the scene. Take a look. They don't even have life rafts. Life Floats, yes. But try to paddle one of those and get anywhere. Been there, done that. In fact, they had used the inflatable tender which was already afloat and tied alongside.
 

sickcat

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There has been mention of batteries starting the fire .I didn't realize just how explosive they are till I watched this video.
Then when you have a bunch of batteries close together the one that fails can easily set the others off with the heat it generates.

I am speculating here but it is certainly possible that if a number of batteries failed in short order it could start a fire raging onboard quickly.

One thing I think has a good chance of being required in the dive/sportfishing fleet is integrated alarm systems - fire, smoke, & CO. Already in use in larger vessels the technology is already there.
 

sickcat

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I would think the old wood boat fleet would be changed to non overnight boats like 6 to 6 day boats or 1/2 day boats with non sleeping arrangements.The older plank boats might just disappear.Looks like the Chief is in a bind right now.End of problem.JMO,Tom
There are virtually no "new" boats being built these days!Just costs too much to be built here and they have to be US made to carry passengers for hire.Top Gun was made in the south east as I remember.The guys struggle now to make ends meet with this business model.Too many partners in your operation.Tom
I think you answered the reason why that won't happen Tom. I don't see the market that could take in the overnight boats in the day, 3\4 and 1/2 day boat fleet. Maybe over time but a rule that required it immediately is not going to happen IMO.
 

sickcat

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As fast as this fire grew and the location of ignition your statement is most likely not an either or situation. I am profoundly disturbed by the fact there are NO, ZIP, ZOT, ZOW fire extinguishers in the passenger sleeping areas on these wooden ships.
While looking at extinguisher accessibility is good more than likely the Conception had the required amount and they were placed correctly according to the regs.

Conception was a Seaway. Most if not all fiberglass cored with plywood. IMO the fact that there was wood in its construction may have played a very minor role in the speed the fire spread. That is to say that given all the flammables in the interiors in boats (including metal hulls) the fact that it was glass and ply is not what caused the tragedy. Compared to all glass boats glass and ply doesn't burn much different.
 
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Done_Deal

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I have read in many different articles and forum posts is that the passengers were all deceased from smoke inhalation an no one died from fire injuries. In a room full of 34 men and women not a single one tried to get out?
It is very possible that one or more tried to get out but succumbed to smoke inhalation. It is common in building fires to find bodies of people who almost made it out but died of smoke inhalation. I seem to recall reading that smoke inhalation is the most common cause of death in building fires. In any event I have not heard that autopsies were conducted on all the bodies to confirm cause of death.
 
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