SANTA BARBARA, California — A commercial diving boat with dozens of passengers aboard sank Monday after it caught fire before dawn near Santa Barbara, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
A total of 39 people were on board the boat called Conception: Six crew members and 33 passengers who were asleep on the bottom deck. Five crew members were rescued near Santa Cruz Island, about 30 miles off Santa Barbara.
The others are all feared dead. Four bodies had been recovered near the boat and brought ashore by Monday night, all with injuries consistent with drowning, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll. Four other bodies had been located at the site but not yet recovered, authorities said.
“This is probably the worst-case scenario you could possibly have,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. “You have a vessel that’s on the open sea in the middle of the night. Fire is the scourge of any ship. The majority of the people were the passengers on the ship, and the sleeping compartment was in the bottom deck of the ship so they would’ve been sound asleep when the fire started. … You couldn’t ask for a worse situation.”