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Report Reveals Candles as Cause of 2019 M/Y Andiamo Fire

14 September 2021By Aileen Mack
Credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray, US Coast Guard District 7

Written by

Aileen Mack

Associate Editor Aileen Mack joined Dockwalk in July 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. If she’s not at a concert or coffee shop, she is lost in a book, movie or a YouTube rabbit hole. Email Aileen at aileen@dockwalk.com.

On September 9, The National Transportation Safety Board issued their Marine Accident Brief on the fire on board 120-foot M/Y Andiamo that led to the total loss of the $6.3 million vessel and $480,000 of damage to the Miami marina and adjacent vessels on December 18, 2019, at 7:21 p.m. The cause of the fire was determined to be candles lit and left unattended in the VIP suite.

No injuries were reported in connection with the incident, and the fire did not spread beyond Andiamo. However, adjacent vessels sustained smoke and heat damage, and Island Gardens Deep Harbour Marina’s (now Yacht Haven Grande Miami) nearby power pedestal and dock floats required repair. Firefighting efforts resulted in flooding that led to Andiamo capsizing onto her starboard side and then resting on the marina’s sea floor in about 27 feet of water at 9:30 p.m. The fire was extinguished at 10:20 p.m.

Credit: US Coast Guard District 7

The six crew on board were preparing for the arrival of a guest of the owner, and during the final preparations, the chief and second stewardesses discovered that lights throughout the lower level and main salon were not working, reporting it to the captain. This issue wasn’t resolved by the time the guest arrived at 7:10 p.m. The first officer and deckhand left Andiamo to prepare the owner’s other vessel in the marina as another option for the guest.

So the chief stewardess lit three candles and placed them on top of the veneer dresser directly below a porthole with two curtains. The candles were placed about six inches apart in the center of the dresser top — two of the candles were new without a holder or secondary container and about eight inches tall, and the other was about half as tall in a glass jar.  She extinguished one of the candles by covering it with the lid because it was flickering, leaving the other two lit, and departed the suite with the guest.

Courtesy of City of Miami Fire Rescue

When the chief stewardess went to the galley to get refreshments about three minutes later, the second stewardess and chef told her they noticed “a funny smell” in the main salon. The chief stew opened the door to the main salon and saw a plume of black smoke about four feet high from the deck. The stewardesses began yelling “Fire!” that the captain heard from the bridge, and he proceeded to investigate but couldn’t determine the origin of the fire. The captain didn’t activate the general alarm but instructed the chief stewardess to evacuate everyone and call for help. The second stewardess placed a 911 emergency call at 7:23 p.m.

The crew told investigators that they never heard or saw any fire alarms, even though the yacht was equipped with an Autronica integrated fire-detection and alarm system including smoke and thermal detectors, and manual (pull-type) and audible alarms. The intensity of the fire grew so quickly that the crew could not safely initiate firefighting efforts, and evacuated the vessel.

Courtesy of City of Miami Fire Rescue

At 7:30 p.m., City of Miami Fire Rescue arrived on scene, followed by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue with additional fireboats. By this time, the vessel was already engulfed in flames. Adjacent vessels C Star and Namaste helped fight the fire but eventually got under way to escape at 7:54 p.m. and 8:05 p.m. respectively.

Prior to the fire, the yacht was drydocked from June to October 2019 to bring her into compliance as the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) suspended the vessel’s class due to an overdue survey. Investigation revealed that ABS reported on October 2 that the onboard fire-detection and alarm system was inoperable. Visits from ABS showed that despite the crew’s repair attempts (the owner and captain had invoices but no records of work conducted), the system and alarms were still not working. The report says,” ABS returned to the vessel the day before the accident to test the fire detectors but found the same sensors inoperable.”

Credit: US Coast Guard District 7

The Marshall Islands issued a yacht safety advisory on April 20, 2020, based on its investigations of four registered yacht fires in the previous year, which included a warning on “leaving open flames such as … candles unattended” posing a fire risk. The candles also had not been secured, which is a necessary precaution as a vessel is likely to sway even within its berth. The report finds that the curtains hanging alongside the porthole above the dresser likely provided the combustible material that started the fire and the vessel’s interior framed in wood with veneer helped the fire spread upward.

“If fully functional, the fire-detection and alarm system would have alerted the crew of the fire’s location at its onset and thus provided an opportunity for a direct response. Earlier detection of the fire likely would have allowed the crew to suppress the fire with onboard equipment such as handheld fire extinguishers,” the report says. “Contributing to the severity of the fire was the crew’s failure to complete timely repairs to a fire-detection and alarm system known to be inoperable for two months.”

To read the full NTSB report, click here.

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