34 Dead in Boat Fire Off Santa Cruz Island, Oxnard. Fire Started 3 am Labor Day
Coast Guard Holds Out Little Hope of Finding Survivors from the Conception, anchored off Santa Cruz Island
September 6, 2019
Update, 9/3/19: Twenty victims have been recovered, including 11 females and 9 males, authorities told a press conference Tuesday. Of those victims, 16 had been recovered Monday. Approximately four to six victims were discovered in the wreckage but were unable to be recovered by nightfall.
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester said that the Coast Guard had decided to suspend search efforts, as "no additional signs of distress or debris has been witnessed." Rochester said that the 24-hour search operation included seven missions and three helicopters crews, and covered an area of 160 miles.
The boat had six crew members and the 33 passengers when it became fully engulfed in flames during a recreational scuba diving trip. The passengers and one crew member slept in bunk-beds on the bottom of the deck. Five crew members asleep on the top deck jumped off and took a dinghy to safety. Two had minor injuries.
As the crew prepared breakfast, a fire began. Most of 30 plus divers were still below decks at that time. 5 crew members jumped off the boat and were rescued by a boat called "The Great Escape." It appears their 30 clients were burned alive below decks.
Five crewmen on the main deck jumped in the water and were rescued later by "good Samaritans" on a passing boat. However, the other 29 people on board were sleeping below decks.
The 75 foot fishing vessel named "Conception" after Point Conception, is owned by a Santa Barbara company. There is speculation that the fire started in the boat's built in kitchen area.
At 4:52 am the USCG tweeted: The Coast Guard has launched multiple rescue assets along with assets from local agencies to assist more than 30 people in distress on a 75ft boat near Santa Cruz Island. More details will be available later as this operation continues.
At the time of the fire, the boat was scheduled for a Labor Day trip that started at the Santa Barbara Harbor on Friday night. The crew planned to head to San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and the Santa Barbara islands before returning to Port Hueneme harbor at about 5 p.m. Monday, according to vacation website, Worldwide Diving Adventures.
The boat, which is based in Santa Barbara Harbor, can carry up to 46 people and has a large upper deck area, a built-in barbecue grill, bunkbeds, bathrooms and showers, according to the website of Truth Aquatics, a well-known Santa Barbara scuba diving operation.
The Conception is equipped with a fixed carbon dioxide engine room fire suppression system and an emergency radio beacon. There are also rafts and jackets for 110 passengers, according to the website.
The Los Angeles/ Long Beach Coast Guard station overheard the "gargled" mayday at about 3:15 a.m. Monday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
"We threw everything that we had available that can get on scene as soon as we could," Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney told KTLA.
Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the eight islands in the Channel Islands and also the largest island in California, located off the coast and West of Catalina. The island, in the northern group of the Channel Islands, is 22 miles long and six miles at its widest point. Santa Cruz Island is located within Santa Barbara County.
MSNBC reported that the fire was in Santa Cruz, California, which is 300 miles from Santa Cruz Island.