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February 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 34, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Fire Sinks Amigos Del Mar’s Dive Boat

from the February, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Blue Hole trip started out normally for the 19 divers on the Pro 48 Custom dive boat. It was after the briefing for the third dive at Half Moon Cay when everyone heard a strange noise coming from the engine room. “It was a bang, like a piston going through the engine,” passenger Paul Stone from Silver Lake, Oregon, told Undercurrent. “Then grey smoke started coming out, followed by black smoke.” The cabin filled with smoke in seconds and the divers rushed to the stern. Then flames started coming out of the side. “The fire started quickly and spread fast.”

Another diver, Ross Tullock, told the San Pedro Sun there were some issues that remained unexplained.

“I sat on top of the engine compartment, putting on my equipment. I heard the engine noise and saw my divemaster open the engine cover, then promptly close it as there was ‘some’ smoke. At no time did crew get a fire extinguisher to tackle the smoke. The captain then put both engines in neutral and applied high revs, causing greater oil burn. He verified the steering was still working but what part of his captain’s training taught him to check if the steering works when black smoke is appearing? Why would he rev the engine?”

Tullock suggested abandoning ship but the crew said no and told divers to move to the bow of the boat. “Then [when the fire appeared] the crew instructed passengers to move to the rear down the port side on the outer rail to collect a scuba tank, as there were no life jackets to hand. I was shocked to see 18 passengers moving to the back of the boat, where the engine is now fully ablaze and the crew is telling us to collect a pressurized tank of air and jump. Meanwhile, the captain started throwing life jackets to me on the bow of the boat so I either passed them to passengers moving down the port side or threw them into the water for people to collect.”

Stone said, “We got out with our BCDs strapped on but hardly anything else.” In the waves, divers and the four crew watched the Miss Mel burn and sink into the water, eventually resting 15 feet at the bottom, and nothing was recovered. An Aqua Dives boat was nearby and took them to shore.

Tullock said, “It is possible the boat could have been saved had the crew been better trained in dealing with initial signs of engine fire – for they were certainly not focused on passenger safety.” Other passengers onboard told the Sun that despite smoke everywhere, nobody panicked and the crew did a good job.

Stone says Amigos Del Mar reacted promptly by having divers fill out reports and insurance claim forms the next day. Amigos Del Mar manager Gilmar told Undercurrent that the cause of the fire was the capillary engine breaking its case and catching on fire, and that the company’s insurance firm is handling further correspondence with the divers.

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