The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a tragic fire that broke out early Monday morning aboard the 75 ft, 1981-built live-aboard dive boat Conception and cost the lives of 34 people.
At approximately 3:30 a.m., Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard and partnering agencies responded to a vessel fire off the north shore of Santa Cruz Island near Platt’s Harbor in Santa Barbara County.
Emergency responders found the Conception fully engulfed in fire. The vessel sank to the ocean floor at approximately 7:20 a.m.
The Los Angeles Times reports that thirty-nine people were on board when the fire broke out. Five crew members, who were awake, jumped overboard and paddled to a nearby vessel. They survived. The passengers and a sixth crew member were asleep below deck and were likely trapped by the flames, the Times reports officials as saying.
Officials had recovered the remains of 20 people — 11 female and 9 male — as of Tuesday, reports the newspaper, which quotes Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr Matt Kroll as saying that thirteen more bodies were found as of Wednesday.
The Conception is one of three boats operated by Santa Barbara, Calif., based Truth Aquatics, which was founded in 1974
According to media reports, investigators from both the FBI and the NTSB have been aboard a slightly larger Truth Aquatics sister vessel, the Vision, investigating the accommodation and escape arrangements.
All three Truth Aquatics vessels were purpose built for the company.
According to an incident update released yesterday, the Conception, remains inverted on the sea floor in approximately 60 feet of water.
To expedite search and recovery efforts the incident response is being managed in six divisions including two Search and Recovery, Security, Morgue, Salvage and Pollution Mitigation.