33 people including 1 crew member were tragically confirmed dead when a boat fire occurred at around 3 a.m. Monday morning as The Conception was anchored off Santa Cruz Island, west of Los Angeles. The boat sailed out from Santa Barbara on Saturday with 33 people including six crew members for a Labor Day weekend trip. Five survivors, two of them suffered minor injuries, were crew members sleeping on the top deck and took a dinghy to safety when the boat caught fire.
The dead were among 34 people below deck sleeping onboard and had possibly been trapped, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. The crew members couldn’t get to them when the fire initially broke out.
According to the Houston Chronicle, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Mathew Kroll said:
Twenty bodies were recovered, and five others were found but not retrieved due to unsafe conditions under the boat, which sank in about 60 feet of water. The count of those found was based on initial reports and needed to be confirmed through autopsies.
The Conception was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures, according to the website, it says it has been taking divers on worldwide diving adventures since the 1970s. Truth Aquatics operated the 75-foot boat. Since 1974, Truth Aquatics, a Santa Barbara-based company, founded and owned by Glen Fritzler.
At Santa Barbara Harbor, a Truth Aquatics staff member said Monday morning that the company had no comment.
Our thoughts go out to the victims and families involved in this tragic incident. We hope that the U.S. Coast Guard crews can find and retrieve the remaining bodies through their rescue efforts.