Rescue operation as boat catches fire off California

Rescue operation as boat catches fire off California”

Orlando Aldana lights candles at a makeshift memorial near Truth Aquatics as the search continues for those missing in a pre-dawn fire that sank a commercial diving boat off a Southern California island near Santa Barbara, California, U.S. With the help of a nearby pleasure craft called The Grape Escape, they were able to make it to safety.

According to Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester, crew members jumped off the burning boat.

Coast Guard Senior Chief Aaron Bemis told CNN that crew members were able to escape because they were in the main cabin.

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds reports from Los Angeles.

Erik Raney, a public information officer with the coroner's office, told the Times the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's coroner office is preparing for a possible mass casualty incident. When they arrived, they found "at least 30 passengers on board and (the boat was) fully involved in flames", Alldredge said.

INSKEEP: And we should note, we heard on this program from the Ventura County Fire Department about an hour ago that the vessel has sunk.

"Mayday mayday mayday", the caller said.

Rochester said the wreckage of the 75-foot Conception ended up upside-down on the ocean floor in about 60 feet of water. "I wouldn't hesitate at all to go on one again". Matthew Kroll of the U.S. Coast Guard. Most of the passengers on the boat may have been sleeping below deck when the fire broke out, trapping them, authorities said.

Ventura County Fire Department firefighters respond to a boat fire off the Southern California coast on Monday

SIEGLER: Yes. And this is - you know, I'm on the coast here in Ventura, Calif., and the Channel Islands are about 20 miles off the coast, so you can imagine also that information coming in is a little bit tricky. "You don't have any firefighter gear at all, no fire extinguishers or anything?" "This is still an ongoing search and rescue", it said.

If the fire was fast-moving, he said, it's very likely divers couldn't escape and the crew couldn't get to them. "It was totally gone", he said.

A 2016 inspection resulted in owners replacing the heat detector in the galley and one in 2014 cited a leaky fire hose.

The Channel Islands is a popular destination for lovers of the outdoors and marine life. The charters typically take off from Ventura and Santa Barbara harbor for several days.

USA Today reported that Greg Ricketts, a former manager with the Federal Aviation Administration and experienced open-water diver, suspects the cause was a "galley fire, making it impossible for the crew to reach the guests and the guests unable to evacuate".

Asked if the boat operator has a history of any violations, Rochester said, "The vessel has been in full compliance".

The National Transportation Safety said it is investigating.

The boat, which launched in 1981, had a 46 bunk occupancy, rafts and jackets for 110 passengers and was equipped with food preparation appliances, including a built-in Bar-B-Que.

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