SANTA BARBARA:At least 25 people were confirmed dead and nine others still missing after a tragic boat fire near an island off the Southern California coast.
The dive-boat Conception, far out to sea in the middle of the night, became fully engulfed in flames as 30 passengers on a recreational scuba diving trip slept below deck.
“You couldn’t ask for a worse situation,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a Monday news conference.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll says at least 25 people on a recreational scuba-diving trip died and the search will continue through the night for the nine others still missing. He says five others have been found but not recovered due to unsafe conditions under the boat, which sank in about 60 feet (18 meters) of water. Kroll that says these numbers are based on initial reports and authorities are awaiting final counts from the autopsies.
Five crew members sleeping on the top deck jumped off and took a dinghy to safety. Two had minor injuries.
Meanwhile, authorities opened a family assistance centre where counselling was being provided to relatives of those onboard. None of their names were immediately released.
The missing and dead were among 39 passengers and crew who had departed Santa Barbara’s Channel Islands Harbour on Saturday aboard the boat Conception for a Labour Day weekend scuba-diving trip.
The fire broke out about 3 a.m. as the Conception was anchored off Santa Cruz Island, about 90 miles (145 kilometres) northwest of Los Angeles. The crew appeared to quickly call for help.