Lit candles left unattended in a VIP suite were responsible for a fire that resulted in the 37 metre Benetti superyacht Andiamo being declared a total loss, a report has found.
The fire, which took place on December 18, was attended by multiple fire crews but led to the loss of the $6.3m yacht and an additional $480,000 of damage to the Island Garden Deep Harbour Marina and neighbouring yachts. No injuries were reported, and all six crew members and a guest were safely evacuated from the yacht.
A report investigating the incident, which was undertaken by the National Transportation Safety Board, reported that on the afternoon of December 18 the crew were preparing for the arrival of a guest of the owner who intended to stay on board for a few days. However, while preparing the port VIP suite, the chief stewardess and second stewardess noticed that the lights throughout the lower deck and main saloon were not working and reported the issue to the captain.
At 7.10pm, the guest arrived on board but the lighting issue had not been fixed. As a result, the first officer and deckhand left the yacht to prepare another vessel belonging to the owner as an alternative place for the guest to stay.
In the meantime, the chief stewardess illuminated the port VIP suite with three candles, two of which did not have candleholders, and placed them in the centre of a wood veneer dresser directly below a porthole with two curtains. Before leaving the suite, she extinguished one candle in a glass jar, but left the other two candles burning.
Around three minutes later, the chief stewardess went to the galley to get refreshments for the guest where the second stewardess and chef told her they noticed a “funny smell” coming from the main saloon.
The chief stewardess opened the main saloon door to find a four-foot-high plume of black smoke rising from the deck. She and the second stewardess immediately alerted the captain and evacuated the yacht. The captain and chef made unsuccessful attempts to fight the fire but were also forced the evacuate. At this time, the first officer and deckhand returned from the other vessel and reported seeing a “flame ball” coming from the main saloon.
On the dock, the crew alerted adjacent vessels Namaste and C Star, the latter of which attempted to fight the fire with a charged fire hose before getting underway to escape the flames, followed shortly by Namaste.
Fire crews from the City of Miami Fire Rescue arrived on the scene at around 7.30pm followed by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and fireboats, but by this time Andiamo was already “engulfed in flames,” according to the report.
As the crews extinguished the fire, the firewater flooded the upper decks of Andiamo, causing it to list and capsize onto its starboard side and come to rest on the seafloor at around 9.30pm.
The cause of the fire was ruled accidental and traced back to the candles left unattended on the dresser in the port VIP suite. It was estimated that the fire spread rapidly upward after igniting the “highly combustible curtains hanging above the porthole” and travelling through overhead air conditioning ducts and an open stairway in the guest lobby.
The report also highlighted that crew told investigators they did not hear or see any fire alarms, despite the yacht being equipped with Autronica integrated fire-detection and alarm system, which included smoke and thermal detectors.
It was found that the smoke detectors, fire detection and alarm system had been inoperable for two months before the fire. Despite several attempts to fix the systems, they remained broken until the date of the fire.
If working, these alarms “would have alerted the crew of the fire’s location” and “provided an opportunity for a direct response”, the report said.