A San Diego-based boat captain told NBC 7 the deadly boat fire off the coast of Santa Barbara could be an opportunity for the industry to examine its safety standards.
“I probably could speak for every licensed captain out here: It was horrifying,” said Cici Sayer, of Offshore Blue Adventures. “It’s your worst nightmare.”
NBC 7 spoke with Sayer on her whale watching boat docked in Mission Bay. She said any boat with paying customers on board means the boat needs permits, inspections, and a U.S. Coast Guard-issued credential.
“If we’re a charter boat, they make sure that you have your captain’s credentials with you,” said Sayer.
Sayer doesn’t blame the captain of the Conception or its parent company Truth Aquatics for the deadly fire that killed 34 people on Sept. 2. Investigators said the Conception passed its two previous inspections.
“I hope that (Truth Aquatics) can recover from this,” said Sayer.
Sayer could not speak directly about the Conception’s history, but she said her boat has undergone several surprise inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard.
She said she was cited during a recent inspection at sea for not having the required emergency smoke flares.
"I got dinged for that," she said.
Sayer said she returned to shore and immediately bought the flares. She expects the same reaction from the Conception’s owners.
“If you’re a good captain, you’re going to correct it. If you’re a good business owner, you’re going to correct it,” she added.
The captain said the entire industry should also use the deadly fire as an opportunity to update its safety standards.
“There’s always room for improvement, everywhere,” she said.
Sayer said she would suggest making sure multiple exits from below deck go to different parts of the boat.
One week after the fire, authorities said they were conducting a criminal probe into the disaster aboard the Conception.