OXNARD, Ca. (PM) — Thirty-three people signed up to spend what promised to be a glorious Labor Day weekend aboard the Conception, a 75-foot boat that offered a scuba diver’s dream: unlimited diving among colorful underwater sea life, with gourmet meals served between dives.
But on the last part of the three-day trip, the ship caught fire Monday off California’s Santa Cruz Island. At least 20 people are confirmed dead, with all passengers feared dead, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.”This is probably the worst-case scenario you can possibly have,” Brown said. “You have a vessel that’s on the open sea, that is in the middle of the night. I mean, it’s 3:30 in the morning.”
Earlier, four bodies were retrieved on Monday by rescuers seeking for 34 people unaccounted for after a pre-dawn fire submerged a scuba diving boat off a Southern California island, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman stated.
No other information was promptly available about the genders, identities or the conditions of the recovered bodies, Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney stated.
The search for the missing was still underway, he stated.
Five crew members were rescued earlier by a “good Samaritan pleasure craft” after a distress call was reported at 3:15 a.m. local time as the 75-foot (23-meter) vessel ignited about 20 yards (18 meters) off of Santa Cruz Island, the Coast Guard stated in a statement.
“The crew was already awake and on the bridge and jumped off,” Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester announced at a news conference at Oxnard. The passengers were all sleeping below decks, according to information the Coast Guard received, Rochester stated.