Four of the 38 people aboard a boat that caught fire and sank near California’s Santa Cruz Island have been found dead, a spokesman for US Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach told Efe Monday
“We have recovered four bodies, there are five survivors and 29 missing,” the spokesman said by telephone.
The Coast Guard station said earlier that the crew of the Conception, a 75-foot diving boat, issued a mayday call around 3.15 am Monday.
“Crews from the Coast Guard, Santa Barbara Fire Department, Ventura County Fire Department and Vessel Assist responded,” the station said in a statement. “The fire department crews were fighting the fire when the vessel sank 20 yards off shore in 64 feet of water.”
“We threw everything that we had available that can get on scene as soon as we could,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney told KTLA television.
The five members of the Conception’s crew, who were on deck when the flames broke out, jumped into the water and reached safety on another boat, the Grape Escape.
But the 33 passengers on the scuba-diving excursion were sleeping below deck at the moment the fire started, Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester told a press conference.
“Right now they’re conducting shoreline searches for any available survivors,” she said. “The crew was actually already awake and on the bridge and they jumped off.”
The Conception sailed Saturday from Santa Barbara and was scheduled to return Monday evening, according to the company that owns and operates the boat, Truth Aquatics.
While four of the crew members came ashore, the boat’s skipper remained at the scene to aid in the rescue and recovery effort, the Coast Guard’s Josue Mendez told CNN.
The Conception was chartered for the Labor Day weekend excursion by Worldwide Diving Adventures.
“The vessel has been in full compliance,” Capt. Rochester said when a reporter asked about possible safety violations by Truth Aquatics.
The Truth Aquatics website says that the Conception entered service in 1981.
The boat is equipped with sufficient life-jackets and rafts for 110 passengers, according to the website. EFE