By Steve Large

EL DORADO HILLS (CBS13) — A former crew member of the doomed “Conception” dive boat is speaking out about the vessel he says was one of the safest he has ever been on.

There is a photo of “Conception” on display in Chris Connolly’s home in El Dorado Hills. The former crew member, who was last on the ship 16 months ago, has a message for the family of the passengers who died on it.

“I have the utmost sympathy for the friends and family, for the passengers that perished on this tragic accident, and for them to know the facts, and all the facts are not out there as of right now,” Connolly said.

Connolly says he has been disturbed by what he calls rumors reported about the ship, such as that the passengers were packed into cramped sleeping quarters behind locked bunk room doors.

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“There are no doors to the bunk room,” Connolly said. “There are no doors, there are no locks on any doors, there is no way for anyone to get locked into the bunk room. They keep portraying this as being extremely cramped quarters and it really is not. There’s plenty of space.”

Connolly says there were smoke and fire alarms inside the bunk room and throughout the boat, and two exits from the sleeping areas that lead to the galley, up a wooden flight of stairs.

“It tells me that the fire was between the captain’s wheelhouse where all the crew was staying and the bunkhouse, and the fire was somewhere right in the middle,” Connolly said. “And there was no way to fight it and no way to escape it.”

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A tragic and deadly fire onboard a dive boat, this one-time crew member says was safe as they come.

“The safety of this boat and the crew is far superior than anything out there and I can tell you because I was a crewman,” Connolly said.

Connolly was a crew member from 1992 to 1998. He also said the ship had no propane on board. All of the appliances were electric.


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