Seawater likely entered a loose hatch on the Kazu I pleasure boat and spread through unsealed holes below deck, leading to the vessel’s sinking off Hokkaido in April, sources told The Asahi Shimbun.

Twenty of the 26 passengers and crew members have been confirmed dead, while six remain missing.

The Japan Transport Safety Board has been studying the boat, salvaged off the Shiretoko Peninsula, to determine the cause of the accident.

The board believes that seawater breached the hatch on the deck and seeped through holes in the walls below deck, the sources said Dec. 8.

The entire bottom area was flooded, including the engine room, the sources said.

The board is expected to release the investigation results soon.

According to the sources, the lid of the hatch was supposed to have been sealed with braces on the corners. But the study of the boat revealed problems with the braces that had left the hatch loose.

The bulkhead, which partitioned off the cargo hold of the boat, also separated the engine room and the steering gear room.

Holes on walls located in front and back of the engine room were covered, but they apparently lacked the strength to keep the area sealed off from possible leaks, the sources said.

The Japan Coast Guard has conducted an investigation into the president of the boat’s operating company and the captain of the vessel, who died in the accident, on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death.