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Coast Guard Calls Off Search for Dive Boat Fire Survivors

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Santa Barbara Fire Department

By The Maritime Executive 2019-09-03 17:05:08

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for survivors of the fire aboard the dive boat Conception on Tuesday morning, ending an effort that began Monday. In total, Coast Guard assets searched for 23 hours covering approximately 160 square miles.

The Coast Guard deployed four helicopter aircrews out of Air Station San Francisco, two response boats out of of Station Channel Islands Harbor, the cutter Narwhal, and one more helicopter based out of San Diego. No victims were found. 

A dive search of the sunken hull is in progress. All 34 people who were belowdecks at the time of the fire went missing, and authorities have recovered the remains of 20 individuals so far. Divers have identified another four to six bodies within the wreck. Conditions are hazardous on scene, with the vessel still shifting in the current, and authorities are planning to stabilize it before proceeding with further dives. 

All 14 individuals who have not yet been recovered are presumed dead.

On Tuesday, the Coast Guard released helicopter footage of the wreck in the early hours of the fire, which broke out at about 0300 hours Monday morning and quickly consumed the vessel. Five crewmembers were on deck at the time of the incident and escaped by abandoning ship and swimming to a nearby private fishing vessel. 

The USCG, the county fire department and commercial response company Vessel Assist responded to the scene. During firefighting efforts, 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.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is under way, with the participation of the National Transportation Safety Board.