Thirty-four people have been presumed dead in a horrific Labor Day boat accident off Santa Cruz Island. According to news reports, so far, 33 bodies have been recovered. Crews were unable to recover the bodies for a long time because of unsafe conditions under the boat, which sank about 20 years off the island and in over 60 feet of water.
The 75-foot commercial diving vessel was anchored in Platts Harbor on the island’s north side when flames erupted early morning on Sept. 2, just hours before it was supposed to return to Santa Barbara from a Labor Day weekend cruise. On Sept. 3, Coast Guard officials suspended the search for survivors and said they presume 34 people had been killed in the accident. Their search lasted about 23 hours and spanned nearly 160 square miles. None of the victims have been formally identified noting DNA analysis will be used to make those identifications.
No Escape from Fatal Fire
According to relatives, the victims included five members of the same family, two students, a diving company owner, a hospital nurse and a 26-year-old woman who was part of the Conception crew. Of the 39 people aboard, only five, all crew members including the captain, were able to escape and survived. Officials said the fire rapidly spread on the boat trapping dozens of passengers and one crew member, who was asleep below the deck. The stairwell and escape hatch were reportedly blocked by the flames.
We offer our deepest heartfelt condolences to the families that have lost loved ones in this horrific boat accident. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers
Five of the crew members who were awake in the main cabin jumped off the boat and into a dinghy to escape the fire. One of the men placed a mayday call to authorities before evacuating. When the Coast Guard arrived, the boat was fully engulfed in flames. Officials have said there is no indication that criminal activity was involved. The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the fire.
The boat, The Conception, reportedly has no recent safety violations and has been inspected annually. Officials also said that it was equipped with a number of safety devices, including a fixed carbon dioxide engine room fire suppression system, an emergency radio beacon, and rafts and jackets for up to 110 passengers.
NTSB officials have already said that it could take them a year to investigate the details of this crash. We trust they are looking into a variety of factors including potential boat defects, electrical malfunctions, operator errors, negligence in maintenance, etc. An experienced California boat accident lawyer will be able to remain on top of the investigation and help ensure that their legal rights and best interests are protected.