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A Look At The Type Of Boat That Was Involved In The Deadly Fire In California

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now let's hear more about the boat itself. It was one of three run by Truth Aquatics, a well-established diving company in California. Fernando Elizondo has been diving off the three boats for decades, and he can talk us through what it's like to be onboard.

Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

FERNANDO ELIZONDO: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: When were you last onboard the Conception?

ELIZONDO: I want to say about three months ago.

SHAPIRO: And walk us through the layout. When you walk on board, what do you see?

ELIZONDO: It's a beautiful boat. You bring your dive equipment on board, store it and sign the forms that you have to fill out, meet the crew and meet those that are going to be diving with you for a - the number of days that you're going to go out.

SHAPIRO: Give us just the layout of the boat if I walk through it. Take us on a little sort of virtual tour, if you would.

ELIZONDO: Sure. I would see aboard the boat on the main deck. Then you walk inside, and that's the eating area with the kitchen. At the bow of that area, which is enclosed, there are stairs that go down to the bunk area. You come back up the stairs up into the cafeteria area. And then you go outside the boat. And then you walk up a ladder up onto the - I think they call it a quarter deck. That has benches on it with foam mattresses so you can sit up there or lay down, read, whatever you want to do. And adjacent to that is the captain's quarters and, obviously, the captain's control room.

The back of the boat is the swim step - pretty typical - where divers come up. It's a little bit lower, and so you have the deckhands helping divers aboard the boat as they finish their dive.

SHAPIRO: And is there a sort of emergency orientation when people board typically? Do they point out where the lifeboats are, where the life vests are and so on?

ELIZONDO: Absolutely. And they make sure that everybody is there for the orientation. It's - you can't be out on the back deck working on your dive equipment or anything. They gather you into the cafeteria, or the eating area. And then they review the exits and the safety standards, the lifeboats and what happens, etc., etc.

SHAPIRO: As somebody who spent a lot of time on these very boats and ones like them, what went through your head when you heard about this?

ELIZONDO: I was just - I continue to reflect, especially when you spend, as a diver, so many hours, so many years diving off of it. Certainly, my heart goes out, condolences to the family - but also to the divers that perished. You just are taken back because you've been in that situation - or I have. And I think many divers will reflect on the boat and the good times they've had on the boat and diving in itself. So it is a bit of a reflective moment.

SHAPIRO: Did you know anyone who was involved in this incident?

ELIZONDO: The captain, Jerry. The many times that I was on the boat, I got to talk to him and chat with him, etc.

SHAPIRO: And the captain, Jerry Boylan, survived this incident. What can you tell us about him?

ELIZONDO: His primary responsibility - and he took it very seriously, as what I've seen - is obviously the condition of the boat - make sure it's safe for everyone - but also the orientation. He is always monitoring the sea conditions because he's the one that decides the dive spots. And if he feels that dive spot is too rough or not appropriate at that point in time, he'll go somewhere else. And all the captains on all three boats have done that. So it's always to have you have the most pleasurable time diving but also with an eye of safety in the dive site.

SHAPIRO: Are you going to think twice before getting on a dive boat again?

ELIZONDO: Not at all. I've been diving for 30 years-plus. I will continue diving but not quite as often as I usually do. But certainly, I will continue diving.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

Fernando Elizondo, thank you for talking with us today.

ELIZONDO: Absolutely. Thanks for the opportunity.

SHAPIRO: He's been diving in the Channel Islands for decades, including off the Conception. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.