Scuba divers in California are continuing to pull bodies from the wreckage of a scuba boat after it caught fire, killing at least 25 of its 39 passengers.
Reuters reports the details surrounding the origins of the fire are still unclear, but five of its crew members were able to flee safely while most of the passengers slept in the below corridors:
The Santa Barbara sheriff had earlier confirmed eight people had died after a fire broke out aboard the Conception, a 75-foot boat, at about 3:15 a.m. (10:15 GMT) on Monday while it was moored just off the shore of Santa Cruz Island.
The Conception had embarked for California’s Channel Islands on Saturday morning with 39 people on board. Five crew members who were above deck on the bridge escaped the fire as passengers slept in the ship’s lower quarters.
“This isn’t a day that we wanted to wake up to for Labor Day and it’s a very tragic event,” Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester told a news conference earlier on Monday, saying the search would continue throughout the night.
The Washington Examiner adds:
Nine people are still considered missing, however authorities maintained little hope that they would be found alive. Four bodies were initially recovered earlier in the day on Monday with injuries consistent with drowning. Four more bodies were confirmed to be on the ocean floor underneath the burned wreckage of the ship, a commercial scuba diving vessel known as “Conception.”
Authorities recovered 16 more bodies from the water later in the day on Monday and confirmed that at least five were deceased on the ocean floor.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 3, 2019
According to the Reuters report, these survivors swam to a fishing boat, seeking help from its owners, Bob and Shirley Hansen:
The surviving crew members sought refuge on a fishing boat moored a few hundred feet away, banging on the side to wake up Bob Hansen and his wife, who were sleeping onboard.
“When we looked out, the other boat was totally engulfed in flames, from stem to stern,” Hansen said in an interview with the New York Times. “There were these explosions every few beats. You can’t prepare yourself for that. It was horrendous.”
Scuba or propane tanks on the Conception may have exploded in the fire, but that had not been confirmed, Brown said, adding it was unclear if there was an initial explosion that caused the fire.
After borrowing clothes from the Hansens, some crew members headed back toward the Conception to look for survivors without luck, Hansen said.
More than two dozen people are confirmed dead after a fire on a commercial scuba diving vessel off the coast of California.
Nearly 10 more are still missing.
Here's the latest: https://t.co/I1S7sXre9T
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) September 3, 2019
California Senator Diane Feinstein responded to the fire, lamenting the safety regulations in place were unable to prevent these deaths.
“It’s inconceivable that with all the safety regulations we have in place today, a fire on a boat can lead to the loss of life we saw this morning,” she said as Reuters reports. “And we need to understand exactly how the crew was trained and, if they were awake and above-deck, why they were unable to alert or help rescue passengers.”