The National Transporation Safety Board (NTSB) just released a preliminary report saying that all five crewmembers on the California boat that went up in flames killing 34 passengers were asleep.

One crewmember is a required by the Coast Guard to be a watchkeeper making sure the boat is properly anchored overnight and doesn’t drift into land or rocks. In this case, there was no one watching the boat to alert the crew when the fire started. The fire had gone too far by the time the crew awoke to find the lower deck that housed the galley was engulfed in flames.

The bottom deck is where the passengers were sleeping. The NTSB found that even on a normal day, it would be difficult to go from the bottom bunk area to the top quickly. After the NTSB checked the stairs on the sister boat, they discovered it was hard to maneuver up the stairs and out. The second emergency exit was the escape hatch (see video below) that the NTSB found to be very difficult to get to to get out of the bottom level of the boat.

The crew got on a skiff to go around and see if they could get into the boat from the outside but couldn’t.

The NTSB and ATF are looking at overheating power sources because the boat is an older boat built in 1981.

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The investigation could take another year to complete.

The Conception boat safety video (no sound) shows emergency procedures with an escape hatch:

* Note that the escape hatch appears to be very difficult to get to.

The bottom line appears to be that the 34 passengers had no way out of the boat because the fire started on the floor above them trapping them from escaping.

OUR PREVIOUS REPORT ON THE TRAGEDY THAT KILLED 34:

A nightmare scenario happened overnight near Santa Cruz Island, California.

A 75-foot dive boat caught fire and continued to burn with 34 passengers sleeping below.

The five-person crew escaped, but authorities are now saying the passengers are feared dead.

The latest report from the California Coast Guard:

The boat called ‘Conception’ reportedly departed from Santa Barbara Harbor on Friday night for a Labor Day weekend trip to the pinnacles of San Miguel Island and was expected to return Monday evening, according to the Truth Aquatics website

ABC News also reported earlier today on the fire:

A dramatic video showing the boat burning was posted on Twitter:

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The map below shows the location of the boat:

The boat sank offshore during the effort to put the fire out by two different fire departments. The boat named the Conception was in 64-feet of water.

The boat burned down to the water-line:

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