SANTA MONICA, CA — The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday it will hold an Oct. 20 meeting on the agency’s investigation of the fire aboard a dive boat off the coast of Santa Barbara last Labor Day weekend that killed 34 people, including two Santa Monica residents.
Marybeth Guiney and Charles McIlvain, diving enthusiasts who lived in the same Santa Monica condominium complex, were among the nearly three dozen people trapped aboard the Conception when it sank amid a three-day Labor Day weekend diving trip to the Channel Islands.
The 75-foot commercial diving vessel was anchored in Platts Harbor off Santa Cruz Island when it caught fire in the early morning hours last Sept. 2, killing one crew member and all 33 passengers. Only five people, all crew members, were able to escape the inferno.
The NTSB’s five-member board will vote on the agency’s findings, probable cause and recommendations, as well as any changes to the draft final report.
In keeping with established social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the board meeting will be webcast to the public, with the board members and investigative staff meeting virtually.
Lawsuits filed by victims’ families allege that the 41-year-old Conception was in blatant violation of numerous Coast Guard regulations, including failing to maintain an overnight “roving” safety watch and failure to provide a safe means for storing and charging lithium-ion batteries, and that the below-decks passenger accommodations lacked emergency exits.
McIlvain, according to his Facebook page, worked as a visual effects designer for Walt Disney Imagineering. His wife, filmmaker Jasmine Lord, was not with him on Conception dive boat. Her online posts indicated she was working over the weekend in Miami — in the path of Hurricane Dorian.
His friends poured their hearts out online, calling him one of “the kindest, funniest people you’ll every meet.” Shari Bee, a co-worker of McIlvain’s, said he was a great guy and well-loved in a tribute on Facebook.
“I’m crying looking at these photos,” she wrote. “I’m so sorry this happened to you, Chuck. My condolences to his loved ones. Rest in peace.”
Guiney, a sales director and ocean enthusiast who was dedicated to the protection of sharks and other sea life, was hailed by friends as an outgoing person who always had a smile.
“I was — we all were — blessed that our paths crossed, and so appreciate the unsolicited kindness she shared with my friends and family in a remote corner of the world,” a friend of Guiney’s wrote on Facebook.
A shrine of candles and flowers appeared on the Santa Barbara dock where the Conception was scheduled to return after the fire. A pair of blue fins were placed at the memorial with the message “We love you Conception,” written on them.
The environmental group Heal the Bay held a community gathering in honor of the victims of the fire at Heal the Bay’s aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier.
– City News Service and Patch Editor Nicole Charky contributed to this report.