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25 Dead, 9 Missing After Boat Catches Fire Off Santa Cruz Island

Patch logo Patch 9/3/2019 Kristina Houck
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SAN PEDRO, CA — Crews were still searching Tuesday for missing people after a scuba diving boat caught fire and sank Monday morning near Santa Cruz Island off the Southern California coast.

As of Tuesday morning, at least 25 people were confirmed dead and another nine people remained missing, The Associated Press reported.

Five crew members jumped off the burning ship and evacuated aboard a good Samaritan pleasure craft named Grape Escape, according to U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester. One crew member suffered non life-threatening injuries, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard's Los Angeles/Long Beach station received a mayday call around 3:15 a.m. of an engulfed 75-foot commercial diving boat off the north shore of Santa Cruz Island near Platt's Harbor in Santa Barbara County.

Crews from the Coast Guard, Santa Barbara Fire and Ventura County Fire fought the flames, but around 7:20 a.m. the boat sank 20 yards offshore in 64 feet of water, according to the Coast Guard.

Rochester said the crew probably was able to escape because they were awake and above deck when the fire broke out.

Authorities have confirmed some fatalities, although the exact number was unknown.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll told the AP at least 25 people died. He said 20 bodies had been recovered.

Previous: Boat Fire: 20 Bodies Found, 14 Missing And Feared Dead: Report

The Conception was owned by Truth Aquatics, a Santa Barbara-based company founded in 1974.

Built in 1981 in Long Beach, the Conception was docked in Santa Barbara. The boat had a maximum capacity of 46 people, with 13 double bunks and 20 single bunks, according to the website California Diving News.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the Conception took off Saturday morning and was scheduled to return Tuesday morning. A shrine of candles and flowers appeared on the Santa Barbara dock where the Conception was scheduled to dock.

Family members looking for information about their loved ones should call 833-688-5551 or 800-400-1572, according to the Coast Guard. A Family Assistance Center was being set up at Earl Warren Fair Grounds, 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein called for an investigation into the 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 near Santa Cruz Island," she said on Monday.

"We need an immediate and robust interagency investigation. The Coast Guard, along with officials from Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, are already hard at work. Once personnel from the NTSB and FBI join the effort tomorrow, we must learn as much as possible about how this happened and how future tragedies can be prevented."


Santa Cruz Students Among Those Missing, Killed In Boat Fire

City News Service contributed to this report.


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