California congressmen are taking the U.S. Coast Guard to task for failing to adopt measures that they say may have saved the lives of 34 people who died in a dive boat fire earlier this year. A hearing before the House Coast Guard & Maritime Subcommittee happened today.
In September, a fire aboard the Conception (pictured above) killed everyone who had been sleeping below during a weekend diving excursion in the Channel Islands. The National Transportation Safety Board's final report on the disaster is not expected for several months.
Watch the Congressional hearing:
In the run-up to the hearing, U.S. representatives Salud Carbajal and Julia Brownley, both Democrats, issued statements pushing the Coast Guard to adopt stricter rules.
"It is clear that serious changes need to be made, and they need to be made as soon as possible," Carbajal (D-Calif.) said. "As we honor the lives of the 34 people who were lost too soon, we must be certain concrete steps are being taken to ensure there are no more victims of tragedies like the Conception fire.
"Congress is holding the hearing that I requested with NTSB and the Coast Guard to get more answers on what happened aboard the Conception. I will be there and I will continue the push for the strong, smart safety regulations our communities need."
"In my view, it is absolutely clear that more needs to be done to protect the lives and safety of passengers and crew on these small overnight vessels," Brownley said. "I expect this hearing is only the beginning of our oversight efforts on the Conception tragedy."
Their calls for action come after the Los Angeles Times reviewed federal documents showing that the Coast Guard had repeatedly rejected the NTSB's recommendations for stricter fire safety regulations. Earlier this week Richard Winton and Mark Puente wrote:
It (NTSB) repeatedly has called on the Coast Guard to require small vessels to establish procedures for conducting regular inspections and reporting maintenance and repair needs for all of a boat’s systems — including the hull and mechanical and electrical operations. This, the NTSB said, would better ensure safety on vessels between Coast Guard inspections, which occur every one to two years.
But the Coast Guard has pushed back on the recommendation, calling it “unnecessarily burdensome and duplicative of existing requirements.”