Boat catches fire off California’s Santa Cruz Island, 34 people feared dead

A commercial diving boat with dozens of passengers aboard sank Monday near Santa Barbara, California, after it caught fire before dawn. Four bodies were later recovered near the boat.

The boat titled, Conception had over 39 people on board. Five crew members were rescued but the remaining 34 members remain missing.

Capt. Monica Rochester of the U.S. Coast Guard said that the five individuals who were rescued were sleeping on the top deck of the boat when they woke up. They jumped off and were rescued by a Good Samaritan boat called the Grape Escape.

The 34 people missing were sleeping on the bottom of the deck, and are believed to be feared dead.

“At this point, it is still an active search until we can get through the likelihood that there could be survivors who got overboard with a flotation device,” Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll said.

The Ventura Fire department tweeted photos from fire-fighters at the scene.

The fire broke out in the early hours of the morning, at about 03:30 local time, when the boat was located on the north side of Santa Cruz island, in the Channel Islands National Park.

Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach said a mayday call was overheard via channel 16. Officials said they “garbled” call was for “an engulfed 75-foot commercial diving vessel with 38 people aboard.”

“The fire department crews were fighting the fire when the vessel sank 20 yards off shore in 64 feet of water,” the Coast Guard said.

The boat was scheduled for a three-day trip this weekend to San Miguel Island off the Santa Barbara coast.

The boat had a maximum bunk capacity for 46 people — with 13 double bunks and 20 single bunks. Rafts and life jackets were available for 110 people, as well as a full first aid kit and oxygen tanks. It was generally docked at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara.

The boat was launched in 1981 and was built in Long Beach.

Source : Various