A man who recently took a trip on board the same boat that went up in flames Monday morning off of the Channel Islands offered a unique perspective of the vessel and factors that may have played a role in the death of more than 25 people.
Last June, Sierra Club member Joel Pointon went on a three-day hiking and kayaking excursion on the 75-foot dive boat Conception.
While his passion is wildlife, Pointon’s profession is in the health and safety industry. He’s the type to have an escape plan wherever he goes.
"I go to the movies, I look for exits. I go on a boat, I look for safety devices,” Pointon explained.
Pointon used a hand-drawn diagram to show NBC 7 the chambers and decks of the Conception, and mapped out where passengers and crew sleep.
According to Pointon, the sleeping quarters for passengers are below deck, next to the engine room with a fire wall between them. He shared a picture of his own bunk which had only a curtain for privacy.
A wide staircase is the main entrance and exit from the passengers’ sleeping quarters and an escape hatch and ladder leading to the upper deck is on the opposite end of the room.
Above is the kitchen and outdoor grill, and above that is the wheel house where crew members sleep.
Pointon said the barrier between passengers and crew may explain why all but one crew member survived and the passenger death toll continues to rise. The U.S. Coast Guard said late Monday at least 25 were dead and nine others were missing.
The rising death toll is haunting for Pointon and his travel companions.
"This is devastating,” he said. “I have already been in communications with others on that trip and a we just can't believe it."
He also feels like it could easily have been him and his friends dead or missing.
"I am just shocked at the numbers involved. We had similar numbers on our trip. It is very easy to put ourselves in their place,” he said.
While the June trip was Pointon’s first excursion aboard the Conception, he said the Sierra Club has been booking tours on that boat for a decade.
Pointon said on his trip there were seven crew members: the captain, first and second mates, two boat hands and two kitchen staffers. The cooks slept with the passengers, the crew slept on the top deck in the wheel house.
Pointon described the crew as professional and courteous and says he saw fire extinguishers on each deck.