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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Crew members of a Southern California dive boat told investigators they were not trained on emergency procedures before a fire broke out last year and killed 34 people, according to federal documents released Wednesday.

Investigators say the cause of the predawn blaze aboard the Conception remains undetermined but a possible ignition point was phones and other electronics plugged into outlets.

One crew member, Ryan Sims, told investigators he saw sparks flash when he plugged in his cellphone hours before the fire.

The boat was carrying 33 passengers on a Labor Day weekend scuba diving expedition last year and was anchored near an island off the Southern California coast. The fire broke out while passengers were sleeping and quickly swept through the vessel.

All of the passengers and one crew member sleeping below deck were killed. The other five crew members, including Capt. Jerry Boylan, survived. They barely escaped after trying in vain to save the others, authorities said. Boylan made a mayday call at 3:14 a.m. saying, “I can’t breathe,” before abandoning ship.

Boylan could face federal manslaughter counts, and recent court documents say criminal charges are imminent.

Hundreds of pages of documents released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board provide a detailed look at the boat’s final hours on Sept. 2, 2019.

Sims, who had only been working aboard the boat for three weeks, told investigators he had asked the captain to discuss emergency plans the day before the fire. Boylan reportedly told him: “When we have time.”

“I didn’t know what the procedures were supposed to be,” Sims said.

Other crew members also said they were not familiar with safety procedures.

Sims said he went to sleep after seeing the sparks, and there is no indication in the documents that he reported what he saw.

Sims broke his leg trying to escape the burning boat and sued the vessel’s owner and the company that chartered it, alleging that the Conception wasn’t seaworthy and operated in an unsafe manner.

The NTSB said all six crew members were asleep when the fire broke out, a violation of Coast Guard regulations that require a roving watch.

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Krisher reported from Detroit.

News Source: Associated Press

Tags: crew members

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DOE spending $48M on substitutes and emergency teachers due to COVID-19

Department of Education funding for substitute teachers and other emergency instructors will balloon from roughly $2 million to about $48 million this year due to the coronavirus crisis, The Post has learned.

According to a DOE budgeting document, the agency is giving schools across the city an extra $47,856,477 to shore up staffing shortfalls.

With school populations split up to facilitate social distancing due to the coronavirus, the number of classes have multiplied at most buildings.

Imminent staffing shortages have forced City Hall to scramble to fill spots right up until the first day of school.

“The city is sparing no expense getting schools the additional staff they need, and we continue to allocate additional funds to schools given the coverage needed in the blended learning environment,” said DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson.

While some schools did not receive any of the additional funding, many were allocated in excess of $100,000 to fill staffing gaps.

A. Philip Randolph Campus High School in Manhattan, which enrolls about 1,600 kids, received $632,500 in additional funding while famed performing arts bastion LaGuardia High School got $574,858.

“This funding went to ​school reporting a staffing need, and can be used for part-time teachers, substitutes, prep period coverage, as well as permanent hires,” Filson said.

The spokesperson said that the DOE normally dishes out $2 million over the course of a year for urgent staffing requests and that the number has exploded this year due to the coronavirus.

A longtime Queens principal said that the sudden infusion of substitute teachers into the system can help but is of limited value.

“If I get a sub that has a pulse and can reasonably interact with kids, I’m happy,” the administrator said. “But a sub has no connection to students or staff. And they can’t be expected to teach quadratic equations to an array of kids when they just got a 6 a.m. call to come in.”

Adequate staffing has become a flashpoint in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s drive to partially reopen city schools this year.

The city teachers’ and principals’ union have charged City Hall with only belatedly addressing shortfalls and running the risk of unmanned classes.

De Blasio insisted last week that there would be enough teachers to handle the load with most buildings throwing open their doors this week.

Filed under Coronavirus in NY ,  department of education ,  teachers ,  9/28/20

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