Los Angeles Times
A day of diving off Santa Cruz Island ended like countless others aboard the Conception, with dozens of divers asleep in tightly arranged bunks that all but filled the belly of the 75-foot boat. As always, there were two ways out in case of emergency — up a curved stairway at the front of the cabin, or through an escape hatch in the ceiling over bunks at the rear. Before dawn on Labor Day, when flames devoured the 38-year-old wooden-hulled vessel, no one below deck made it out of either exit. The only survivors were five crew members who were up top in the wheelhouse and managed to jump into the water and then onto a dinghy. Now, as investigators search for the cause of the fire that killed everyone in the bunk room — one crew member and all 33 passengers — questions are mounting about the design of the Conception and its emergency escape routes.
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