Smoke likely killed 34 trapped below deck in California boat fire, raising new questions about origin point

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES:

Authorities said Friday they believe smoke inhalation caused the deaths of 34 people aboard the Conception dive boat, raising new questions about exactly where the fire started and how it spread.

The fire broke out early Monday morning during a Labor Day weekend diving expedition, trapping the victims who were sleeping. Five crew members who were above deck at the time were able to escape and said the fire was too intense to get anyone else out.

A source familiar with the crew’s accounts told The Times that hours before the fire erupted, the passengers had participated in a night dive. A crew member who had been straightening up the galley and mess area went upstairs to the wheelhouse about 2:35 a.m.

Before the crew member went upstairs, he checked to make sure the stove was cold and flammable materials were stowed, according to the source, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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