California boat fire – what happened and how many people have died off Santa Cruz island?

California boat fire – what happened and how many people have died off Santa Cruz island?

- in Usa News

A DIVING boat burst into flames off the coast of California in the early hours of Monday morning killing 34 people.

High school students, a science teacher and his daughter, an adventurous marine biologist and a family of five celebrating a birthday are among those presumed dead.

The fire was so vicious that emergency workers couldn’t board the boat

What happened to Conception?

The 75ft Conception boat was hosting a £550-a-head diving trip for the US Labour Day weekend.

At around 3.15am on Monday, September 2, flames burst out and the vessel caught fire.

Five crew members who were awake on the top deck jumped into the water and escaped from the main cabin, including the ship’s captain who suffered a broken leg.

Emergency workers rushed to the scene with rescue boats and a helicopter, however they were unable to board the vessel due to the intensity of the blaze.

Passengers on board were asleep below deck with the crew members unable to reach them.

Coastguard chief Aaron Bemis said: “The report we got was they were trapped by the fire.

“The fire was so intense that even after it was put out, we’re not able to actually embark the vessel and, you know, look for survivors at this point. It’s still ongoing.”

He added that the fire was difficult to snuff out, as after it was extinguished it would flare up again, perhaps due to fuel on the boat.

The escaped crew managed to swim to a fishing vessel owned by Shirley Hansen and her husband Bob and raise the alarm.

The original mayday call between the coastguard and Conception’s captain revealed the passengers “can’t get off”.

A clip of the ship’s call revealed the passengers were trapped below deck “with no escape hatch”.

The ship sank about 20 yards from shore.


Marine biologist Kirsty Finstad – who was described by her family as a ‘free spirit’ – is among the missing[/caption]


Ms Finstad helped organise the trip with her husband, Dan Chua – who did not go on the doomed vessel[/caption]

Who are the people who died?

A total of 39 people were on board the Conception.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said he believed those who died ranged from teenagers to people in their 60s.

Most appeared to have been from Northern California, including Santa Cruz, San Jose and the San Francisco Bay Area, he said.

The only survivors were believed to be the captain and four crew members who were awake on the upper decks.

They jumped off the front of the vessel, swam to an inflatable boat at its stern and steered it to a ship anchored nearby.

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.

Passengers are feared to have burned in their beds as the inferno tore through the 75ft Conception’s upper deck
The 75ft Conception burst into flames at 4am

What was the boat doing?

Conception is described as having “a revised galley and bunk layout, including more double bunks, bathrooms, and shower” which makes it “ideal for large charter groups”.

The trip’s itinerary boasted of “gourmet cuisine” by a specially-trained chef and “delightful” night-time sea dives.

The Conception set out from Santa Barbara on Saturday, August 31, and visited several diving spots around Santa Cruz Island.

It was set to return to shore on Monday, September 2, at 5pm.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the boat fire.

As The Sun reported, suffered at least ten prior “marine casualties” including four deaths on voyages since 2005, according to US Coastguard reports

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 US Coast Guard incident report.

One of the five crew members is seen been taken ashore
Universal News & Sport (Europe)
Passengers were trapped in the cabin below deck

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