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Horrific Fire Aboard California Scuba Boat Tragically Kills at Least 25 People, 9 Remain Missing

Dozens of people were tragically killed early Labor Day morning, when a horrific fire broke out aboard a scuba boat moored off the California coast.

Conception Fire Trapped 33 Passengers Below Deck

The 75-foot Conception dive boat was on a three-day tour of the Channel Islands and just 20 yards from Santa Cruz Island, when it suddenly burst into flames shortly after 3:00 a.m. on September 2nd.

Thirty-nine people, including 33 passengers and six crew members, were aboard the vessel at the time.  As the disaster began to unfold, the Conception’s passengers were sleeping in tightly packed stacks of bunk beds located below deck. Sadly, it’s believed all became trapped inside the burning ship.

“When we looked out, the other boat was totally engulfed in flames, from stem to stern,” witness Bob Hansen told The New York Times. “There were these explosions every few beats. You can’t prepare yourself for that. It was horrendous.”

Just 5 Crew Members Escaped California Scuba Boat Fire

Five crew members managed to escape to Hansen’s fishing boat, moored just a few hundred feet away. Although several returned to the water to search for survivors, their rescue attempts failed.

The fast-moving fire quickly consumed the Conception. The doomed vessel now lies upside down, under 62-feet of water, with only its bow exposed above the ocean.

“Fire is the scourge of any ship,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told The Washington Post.  “To be in a remote location, have a fire that occurs and have limited, if any, firefighting capabilities, and then have, all of a sudden, a fire that spread very, very rapidly — you couldn’t ask for a worse situation.”

According to the Associated Press, U.S. Coast Guard divers have managed to recover the remains of 25 people killed in the fire. However, they’re continuing search for eight passengers and one crew member who remain unaccounted for.

For now, authorities are withholding the victim’s names pending family notification.

A Desperate Rescue Call from the Conception

According to media reports, the Conception belongs to Truth Aquatics and had been chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures.

The passengers left Santa Barbara on Saturday, and expected to return by Monday at 5:00 p.m. But less than an hour before its scheduled departure from Santa Cruz Island, someone aboard the Conception made a desperate rescue call to the Coast Guard.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday!” the unidentified male voice said on a recording released earlier today.

“That’s a distress, this is the Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles on channel 1-6, what is your position … and number of persons on board? Over,” the dispatcher answered.

“Twenty-nine. Twenty-nine POB,” the man answered. “I can’t breathe!… Twenty-nine POB.”

Although the dispatcher twice requested the dive boat’s coordinates, the caller failed to respond.

NTSB Investigating California Dive Boat Fire

So far, it’s not clear what might have triggered the Conception tragedy.

“It’s inconceivable that with all the safety regulations we have in place today, a fire on a boat can lead to the loss of life we saw this morning,” U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said in a statement issued on Monday. “And we need to understand exactly how the crew was trained and, if they were awake and above-deck, why they were unable to alert or help rescue passengers.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has since deployed specialists and engineers to the scene of the deadly California scuba boat fire.

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Our Undefeated Maritime Lawyers are monitoring developments related to the horrific Conception fire off Santa Cruz Island in California and will post updates as new information is made available.

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