A total of 25 bodies had been found by divers on Monday September 2nd after a fire before dawn caused scuba diving vessel Conception to sink off the Southern California island of Santa Cruz. A further nine people were unaccounted for as the search continued.
Conception was a 23-metre vessel. She sank at about 03:15 local time on August 2nd, while moored just off the shore of Santa Cruz Island.
The Conception had left for a trip to California’s Channel Islands on the morning of August 31st with 39 people on board. Five crew members, who were above deck on the bridge, escaped the fire, but the passengers were asleep in the ship’s lower quarters.
Scuba or propane tanks on the Conception could have exploded in the fire, although it was unclear if there was an initial explosion that caused the fire.
Investigators said a single mayday call came from the boat reporting the accident.
US Coast Guard Lt Commander Matthew Kroll told CNN that “it happened quickly enough so many people could not get off”.
The sunken vessel was lying upside down under more than 18 metres of water. Authorities were trying to determine the best way to recover the sunken vessel. One possibility was towing her to shore, local authorities said.
The surviving crew members sought refuge on a fishing boat moored a few hundred feet away, having to bang on the side to wake up the couple who were asleep on board.
The diving boat was chartered by Santa Barbara, California-based excursion firm Worldwide Diving Adventures. It said on its website that the Conception was on a three-day excursion to the Channel Islands, and was due back in Santa Barbara on Monday afternoon. The boat is owned by Truth Aquatics.