Update (1045ET): Coast Guard Senior Chief Aaron Bemis told CNN the fire on the boat keeps re-flashing, hampering efforts to board the boat and look for survivors.
“It’s a 75-foot commercial dive vessel that reportedly had 39 people on board. The five crew members able to disembark because they were in the main cabin. The 34 passengers were below decks,” Bemis added.
“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 said.
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A boat fire off the Ventura County coast in California has left 34 people dead, according to KTLA, citing Ventura County fire department officials.
According to the US Coast Guard, a rescue operation on the 75-foot boat near Santa Cruz island was still underway as of 5:43 a.m., however they did not confirm any fatalities.
Five people had made it off the boat.
In a Monday morning tweet, the USCG Los Angeles said that “a group of crew members has been rescued (one with minor injuries) and efforts continue to evacuate the remaining passengers.”
The vessel was reported as being on fire. The a group of crew members has been rescued (one with minor injuries) and efforts continue to evacuate the remaining passengers. https://t.co/ojaSdUTHXd
— USCG Los Angeles (@USCGLosAngeles) September 2, 2019
As CNN reports, The Conception, the boat set ablaze early this morning, set out from Santa Barbara on Saturday for a diving excursion, according to the website for the diving company, Truth Aquatics.
The boat was set to return to shore today at 5 p.m.
“On the Labor Day trip, divers have the unique opportunity to explore the pinnacles of San Miguel Island,” Truth Aquatics said on its website. “The beginning of September is the best time to be at San Mig, which see strong winds and swell during much of the year.”
The company’s website said the crew was using the Conception this weekend to visit San Miguel where divers were expecting to see a variety of interesting sea life.
“This rarely visited island is loaded with color: anemones, crabs, nudibranchs covering every inch of wall with a rainbow. Great for macro-photography,” the website said.
Other possible destinations during the trip included Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara Islands, according to the website. Divers were scheduled to meet at the Santa Barbara Harbor on Friday night, boarding anytime after 8 p.m. The Conception was scheduled to depart at 4 a.m. Saturday, then return on Monday afternoon.
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Santa Barbara County Fire Department PIO Mike Eliason said that 34 people are still confirmed missing:
“They are unaccounted for, but it’s very foggy out there. We’re still holding hope that someone may have swam to shore. When they anchor overnight they’re pretty close to shore. We have to hope, but we plan for worst case scenario.“
Four crewmembers from the Conception diving vessel are being brought to shore, according to US Coast Guard Los Angeles Chief Warrant Officer Josue Mendez. Mendez tells CNN that the captain of Conception is still on scene.