THE diving boat that burst into flames killing 34 passengers off the coast of California had been involved in a string of previous deaths and injuries, The Sun Online can reveal.
The Conception suffered at least ten prior “marine casualties” including four deaths on voyages since 2005, according to US Coastguard reports.
At least 25 people are dead and nine are missing after an inferno ripped through the scuba diving boat’s upper deck near Santa Cruz island in the early hours of Monday morning.
Five of six crew members who were above deck on the bridge managed to escape as the fire took hold at around 3.15am.
The captain can be heard screaming “They can’t get off” in a chilling distress call from the bridge.
Today details emerged of the 34 victims – including a family of five, and a teenage girl who died with her parents.
Tia Salika, who was celebrating her 17th birthday on the trip, is believed to have perished along with dad Steve, who worked for Apple, and mum Diana.
Also among the victims were retired nurse Michael Quitasol, in his early 60, who died with his partner and three of his daughters – including restaurant worker Nicole, 31, and Angela, 28, a science teacher.
And physics teacher Scott Chan is reported to have died along with his biologist daughter Kendra, 26.
Now The Sun Online investigations reveal how the Conception – along with its sister boats Truth and Vision, also run by Santa Barbara company Truth Aquatics – has a history of tragic accidents at sea.
Altogether nine people have died and at least 12 have been injured while on Truth Aquatics boat trips since 2004, according to USCG records.
The company and its crew were not blamed for the deaths.
Two of the past fatalities on the Conception were caused by drowning, while another man died when his legs became entangled in his spear gun tag line.
A fourth diver was found dead after becoming separated from his group.
Six others had to be rushed to hospital after suffering compression sickness or other injuries while on dive trips on Conception.
And there were a total of five deaths and six injuries on board the Truth and Vision sister vessels since 2004.
The Vision also ran aground after a crew member fell asleep at the helm, according to another USCG incident report.
The most recent death took place three years ago, when a man – named in the report as William Sullivan – drowned in March 2016 while on a diving trip on Conception.
Mr Sullivan was part of a group of 33 taking part in a diving expedition to Santa Cruz island – the same location those who perished on Monday were visiting.
During one dive, the victim“ascended to the surface faster than his group” and began swimming back to the boat, according to USCG Investigation Activity Report.
“Minutes later he was found face down and unresponsive by the dive instructor who then yelled for help,” the report says.
“Conception’s rescue diver entered the water and recovered the diver to the boat.
“The crew initiated CPR and attached an Automated External Defibrillator.
“CPR was conducted for approximately 30 minutes until the diver was pronounced dead by a Coast Guard flight surgeon.”
Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Coroner autopsy determined cause of death was drowning, possibly due to sudden distress associated with heart disease.
A few years earlier, emergency services were called to the boat after one diver was injured and another died.
The man who died – named as William Houle – “ran out of air and downed” during a dive near Santa Catalina island, according to the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
Marine biologist Kirsty Finstad – who was leading the diving expedition – is among the missing[/caption]
Ms Finstad helped organise the trip with her husband, Dan Chua – who was not aboard the doomed vessel[/caption]
“Early into the first scheduled dive near the SW side of Santa Catalina Island, CA. two divers experienced complications (one injured and one fatal) and required emergency services,” the investigation report reads.
“Other divers assisted the diver in cardiac arrest in resurfacing. On the vessel, he received CPR but shortly afterwards had no noticeable pulse.
“A Coast Guard helicopter transported the patient in full cardiac arrest to the USC Catalina Hyperbaric chamber. Bay Watch Paramedics transported the other victim to the hyperbaric chamber and monitored him for decompression sickness.”
LA County Sheriff Department tested the boat’s supply air, which was found to be safe and in good operating condition.”
In March of the same year a man named as Jia Gang Zhu died after his legs became entangled in the tag line of his spear gun.
The incident also took place while the boat was anchored off Santa Cruz island.
“His legs became entangled in the tag line of his spear gun as a result he was unable to stay above the surface of the water,” the report reads.
“The recently certified diver did not properly use his dive regulator or dive mask and did not properly utilize his BCD.
“The Rescue Diver from the Conception found the diver approximately seven minutes later in 41 feet of water under the vessel with his dive gear off of his back and entangled around his feet.”
The fourth death on the Conception took place in January 2005 when a man named as Mike McDonald was separated from his dive group.
Around 45 minutes later, the safety diver “entered the water and found the deceased in 59 feet of water”.
The boat has also been involved in a number of diver injuries – including in October 2012, when a diver lost consciousness in the water.
Investigators logged how a passenger was injured while diving from the boat, in the Santa Barbara area and signalled for help from the water.
Rescue teams move a recovered body on the dock at Santa Barbara[/caption]
A crew member jumped in to help the passenger but he lost consciousness and stopped breathing on the way back to the vessel. The crew gave him CPR and he regained consciousness.
The same records reveal a female diver suffered decompression sickness and had to be rushed to hospital following a dive strip to San Miguel Island in March 2009.
Two divers had to be airlifted from the boat – one in November 2006 after hyperventilating in the water and losing consciousness and another who lost consciousness after becoming entangled in kelp in 2005.
Truth Aquatics’ other boat Vision – described as its “flagship vessel” – has suffered four deaths and three injuries since 2004, according to USCG figures, and the boat Truth has had one death and three injuries in the same period.
The crews were not found liable for any of the deaths or injuries and USCG don’t appear to have made any recommendations following their investigations.
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In October 2008, the Truth ran aground in the early hours of the morning when a “licensed Mate fell asleep at the helm”, according to USCG.
The USCG found that there was “evidence of improper watchstanding/rest periods”.
The Sun Online reached out to Truth Aquatics for comment.
So far the company has not commented on the fire.