California Dive Boat Burns and Sinks, Leaving at Least Eight Dead

Santa Barbara County Fire Department / Twitter

Published Sep 2, 2019 2:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

In the early hours of Monday morning, the dive boat Conception caught fire with 39 passengers and crew on board at an anchorage just off Santa Cruz Island, California. 

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach received a mayday call reporting the fire at 0315 hours Monday. Crews from the Coast Guard, the Santa Barbara Fire Department, the Ventura County Fire Department and commercial response company Vessel Assist responded to the scene. The fire department crews were still fighting the fire when the vessel sank at a position about 20 yards offshore. It came to rest in about 65 feet of water, with a portion of the bow visible at the surface, according to the USCG.

Ventura County Fire Department / Twitter

Five members of the crew were awake and abovedecks at the time of the fire, and they were rescued by good samaritans in a nearby boat, Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester told media at a briefing Monday. 34 passengers were asleep belowdecks and remain unaccounted for. [Update: The Coast Guard has confirmed eight deaths, with 26 still missing.]

Two USCG helicopter crews have worked with local law enforcement to conduct a search of the area. Early efforts were hampered by fog, a common occurrence off Santa Cruz. 

In a news conference at 1000 hours Monday, officials confirmed that there were fatalities, and a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County coroner's office told the LA Times that the coroner is preparing for a "mass casualty incident." The cause of the fire is under investigation.