DIXON — Gary Short, a retired captain and dive team leader with the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, has been on the Conception as a diver on chartered excursions five times, with the most recent being in 2014.
He told FOX40 Wednesday he has chosen to dive with Truth Aquatics, which owned the Conception, over the years because he considered them the safest.
“In California, Truth Aquatics is always the one that’s talked about, has been one of the best charters to be on,” Short said. “By far, Truth Aquatics, hands down, is the best.”
Short said the crews meticulously go over safety procedures with divers, drilling in the safest ways to get on and off the boat.
“They explain all the safety procedures, all the rules on the boat for keeping everybody safe,” he explained. “They have an underwater recall alarm, they have smoke alarms and heat sensor alarms on board the ship. They talk about where the fire extinguishers are, along with other firefighting equipment.”
He said they also teach drivers how to do mayday calls.
There are two access ways to the sleeping quarters, a stairwell that leads to the galley and kitchen area and an emergency hatch to the rear of the sleeping area.
“They also have a crew member, at least one, sometimes two depending on the size or number of passengers, that sleep down in the birthing area,” Short said. “They’re a monitor; they’re there to assist. They’re there to make sure that everybody knows what’s going on if there’s a problem.”
The boat caught fire before dawn on Monday. Authorities have said 34 people aboard, who were below deck sleeping, were presumed dead and five crew members, including the captain, escaped.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
Short has his own ideas.
“I would guess there was a sudden explosion, with a rapid onset of fire covering a significant amount of that main deck such that they could not exit out of the stairwell and they cannot exit out of the escape hatch,” he said.
Despite this devastating accident, Short said he will continue to dive with Truth Aquatics.
“I would do one extra step of reminding myself about the emergency procedures. I would, mentally and physically, go pop the door open and just do that. And make sure I run through the plans in my head a second or third time,” Short said.