Maritime Casualty News, September 2020

NTSB releases documents on Conception dive boat fire

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a trove of documents related to the Sept. 2, 2019 fire aboard the dive boat Conception off California’s southern coast that left 34 people dead. 

The information is contained in the NTSB’s public docket related to the incident. The docket was made available earlier this month ahead of the agency’s meeting scheduled for Oct. 20 that will likely include a determination on the probable cause of the fire. 

The public docket contains statements from the five surviving crewmembers, transcripts of witness interviews, and numerous reports into operations, engineering, survival factors and the fire itself aboard the 75-foot fiberglass and wood vessel. 

The information can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/3crEa3j

Golden Ray

Golden Ray captain: Ship appeared stable before capsizing

The captain of the vehicle carrier Golden Ray, which rolled over in St. Simons Sound off Georgia in 2019 and remains there today, said he did not notice any issues with stability before the incident. 

Capt. Gi Hak Lee testified during a virtual public hearing held by the U.S. Coast Guard in Brunswick, Ga., from Sept. 14 to 22. The meeting was live-streamed online, and each segment is available for on-demand viewing. 

“Until the ship completely rolled over, I did not notice any issues with the ship’s stability,” Lee told Coast Guard Capt. Blake Welborn, lead investigator, at the hearing.

Others who testified at the event included the pilot, the captain of an assist tugboat, and crew from Golden Ray. The 656-foot ship capsized at about 0200 on Sept. 8, 2019 with 4,200 vehicles on board. Efforts are under way to salvage the vessel where it capsized. 

Video testimony from the Golden Ray public hearing can be viewed here: https://livestream.com/uscginvestigations

Casualty flashback

Casualty flashback: September 1967

The steamship North American began its career as an overnight passenger vessel plying the Great Lakes. It now rests at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket. 

The 280-foot ship left Great Lakes Engineering Works in Ecorse, Mich., in May 1913 to begin service for the Chicago, Duluth and Georgian Bay Transit Co. based in Detroit, according to the Marine Historical Society of Detroit. North American continued that work for many years alongside a newer sister ship, South American

North American was powered by a 2,200-hp quadruple expansion steam engine and three coal-fired Scotch boilers. The plant was converted to run on oil in the 1920s, with the installation of new boilers and a second exhaust stack. 

Passenger travel on the Great Lakes waned in the second half of the 20th century, and as it did companies phased out passenger vessels. North American was sold in 1963 to Canadian Holiday Co. of Erie, Pa., and for a year it carried passengers across Lake Erie to the Ontario towns of Port Burwell and Port Dover before that service ceased. 

In 1967, North American was solid to the Seafarers International Union (SIU), which planned to use it as a training ship at Piney Point, Md. The ship never made it. While under tow on Sept. 4, North American sank in 400 feet of water about 25 miles northeast of Nantucket Light. 

Later in 1967, after the sinking, SIU bought South American upon its retirement. The union planned to use it as a dorm and floating classroom, but the ship failed a Coast Guard inspection. South American decayed for years in Camden, N.J., and was ultimately scrapped more than two decades later. 

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