SANTA CRUZ ISLAND, Calif. – Officials say that they’ve recovered four bodies and are searching for 29 more after a dive boat caught fire and sank off the coast of Santa Cruz Island early Monday morning.
Fox News reported that around 11 a.m. local time, the Coast Guard confirmed that they had recovered four victims that had appeared to die from drowning. Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll of the Coast Guard said that search and rescue teams are diligently working to locate the remaining victims.
Five crew members escaped with their lives right after the fire broke out.
#CoastInc: @VCFD responded to boat fire off the north side of Santa Cruz Island at approximately 3:28am. @USCG helping support rescue operations for people aboard a dive boat. #ChannelIslands @USCGLosAngeles @CountyVentura @SBCOUNTYFIRE pic.twitter.com/DwoPGfBjtA
— VCFD PIO (@VCFD_PIO) September 2, 2019
Conflicting reports about how many people were onboard has made it increasingly difficult for the emergency crews who are still looking for any trace of life.
The Coast Guard reported that they received an emergency transmission at around 3:15 a.m. local time of an “engulfed 75-foot commercial diving vessel” off the coast of Santa Cruz Island. The original report said that 38 people were onboard. That number has fluctuated throughout much of the day, but officials are now saying that one of the crew members on the ship’s manifest was not actually aboard when the fire occurred.
Firefighters from two different local departments battled the blaze, but the ship reportedly sank approximately 20 yards offshore. Officials from the Coast Guard said the water was 64-feet deep where the vessel went under.
Fox reported that the boat is a fully- equipped 75-foot commercial diving boat that takes out recreational scuba divers and is able to spend multiple days out at sea.
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Reports claimed that the victims and those that are still missing would have been sleeping under the deck when the fire broke out.
“The crew was already awake and jumped off the bridge into the water,” Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester said.
“The five crew members able to disembark because they were in the main cabin. The 34 passengers were below decks,” Coast Guard official says.
“The report we got was they were trapped by the fire” https://t.co/hs23IlWV71
— KTLA (@KTLA) September 2, 2019
Those few crew members were pulled out of the water by a nearby fisherman who happened to be in the area. Rochester called the man a ‘good Samaritan’.
“The Coast Guard has launched multiple rescue assets along with assets from local agencies to assist more than 30 people in distress on a 75 ft boat near Santa Cruz Island,” a tweet from the Coast Guard said Monday afternoon.
A massive search and rescue presence is at the scene. Reports say that the Coast Guard has brought in two helicopters, two 45-foot Swift boats and an 87-foot cutter to assist with the search.
There has not yet been word on how the fire started.
This story is developing. Law Enforcement Today will continue to bring you updates as more information is provided to the public.