The U.S. Coast Guard has launched several assets from its Los Angeles base in an attempt to rescue people aboard a 75-foot commercial diving boat that burned and sank near Santa Cruz Island Monday, with 34 people missing and feared dead.
Five crew members “jumped off” the burning ship and were evacuated aboard a good Samaritan pleasure craft named Grape Escape, according to U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester, who said divers were still engaged in a search-and-rescue operation as of 9 a.m.
The Associated Press reported at around 11 a.m. that four bodies had been recovered.
One crew member suffered minor injuries, the Coast Guard said.
A mayday call was heard at 3:15 a.m. by Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach watchstanders of an engulfed 75-foot commercial diving vessel with 38 people aboard, according to a U.S. Coast Guard news statement.
Crews from the Coast Guard, Santa Barbara Fire Department and Ventura County Fire Department responded and were fighting the fire when the vessel sank 20 yards off shore in 64 feet of water.
“The vessel currently has a portion of the bow sticking out of the water,” the Coast Guard said.
The Ventura County Fire Department reported that firefighters and paramedics responded to a boat fire off the north side of Santa Cruz Island at approximately 3:28 a.m. and was helping the U.S. Coast Guard in support of rescue operations for people aboard a dive boat.
Worried loved ones were coming to the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Channel Islands searching for information. The Coast Guard said family members looking for information about their loved ones should call 833-688-5551. A Family Assistance Center was being set up at Earl Warren Fair Grounds, 3400 Calle Real in Santa Barbara.
Rochester said the crew was likely able to escape because they were awake and above deck when then fire broke out.
The ship was named Conception. Built in 1981 in Long Beach, it was docked in Santa Barbara. According to the website California Diving News, it has a maximum capacity of 46 people, with 13 double bunks and 20 single bunks.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department offered its support Monday morning, tweeting: “#LASD is at the ready to assist in helping find the 34 unaccounted-for people in this devastating boat fire. We hope for the best and brace for the worst. We share in your sorrow.”
Moments later, the department tweeted: “#Confirmed #SEB #LASD Air Rescue 5 & Emergency Services Detail Divers @SEBLASD are responding to assist @USCGLosAngeles @CountyVentura in the rescue efforts of the 34 unnaccounted-for people in devastating boat fire.”
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: