The passengers were surprised by the flames in their sleep – they had no chance.
Bad fire aboard an excursion boat off the coast of California! The authorities fear 33 dead, four bodies were already pulled out of the water. It should be about two men and two women. Four more bodies were discovered at the bottom of the sea but could not be recovered yet. Now-published emergency calls reveal the drama on board.
The fire broke out around 3:15 am local time on Monday morning on the approximately 23-meter-long "Conception", a ship that can be rented for multi-day diving trips. When the rescue workers reached the boat at 3.28 am at Santa Cruz Island (140 kilometers west of Los Angeles), it burned brightly.
At a press conference on Monday afternoon in Santa Barbara, it became clear that many questions are still open: Neither the cause of the fire nor details about the passengers are known so far. So it can not be ruled out that there were not American citizens on board either. Understand the incident using a black box, as is common in large aircraft or ship accidents, in the case of "Conception" will not be possible – ships of this size would not have a black box, said Sheriff Bill Brown.
Meanwhile, the "Conception" is loud coastguard sunk, only a piece of the bow still sticks out of the water. Overall, according to recent reports, apparently 39 people on board. Only five of them could be saved.
Monica Rochester of the US Coast Guard said on Monday that the rescue and search operation was still going on, but that the worst was to happen: "This is not the day we wanted to wake up on Labor Day – it's a lot tragic incident. "
The rescued were crew members who were on the bridge when the fire broke out. Coastguard spokeswoman Monica Rohester: "The crew was already awake, jumping overboard."
The crew rescued themselves in underwear on another boat nearby. Under deck of the "Conception" slept at this time 33 passengers. They are currently officially missing.
"Can you get back on the boat and open the door?"
US media released two different emergency call recordings. "Mayday! Mayday! Mayday, "someone shouts on one. A member of the Coast Guard asks about the position of the "Conception". "I can not breathe," is the answer. The rest is not understood.
The second recording shows only the voice of a Coast Guard employee. "Your ship is burning, is that correct?" He asks. "Roger. Are you at the 'Conception'? Roger. And there are 33 people aboard the burning ship, and they are not coming down? Roger. Are the people trapped on the boat? Roger. Can you get back on the boat and open the door so they can go down? Roger. You have no equipment to fight the fire, nothing? "
According to this, the crew had already jumped off the ship at the time of the second emergency call – and was no longer able to help the passengers.
Shortly thereafter, when the first helpers arrived at the scene of the accident, they could not join the people on the ship because fires kept popping up – possibly fueled by exploding oxygen tanks. Later it was said that the "Conception" had burned down to the waterline. Then the ship sank.
A fire department spokesman: "We still hope that someone has swum ashore. When they anchored for the night, they were close to the shore. We have hope, but we expect the worst. "
Helicopters and lifeboats search the coast. A forensic lawyer in Santa Barbara told the Los Angeles Times they were preparing to handle many deaths.
The Coast Guard said two of the rescued crew members had suffered leg injuries. CNN reported that among the rescued was the captain. While the other crew members were brought ashore, he stayed with the local helpers.
The Conception (commissioned in 1981, sleeps 46) was on a three-day trip, was due to return to its home port in Santa Barbara on Monday, anchored in the night to Monday about 20 meters off the coast of Santa Cruz. The island is one of the Channel Islands of California, also called Santa Barbara Islands. The archipelago is a popular destination for divers and sailors.
The dive trip over the long Labor Day weekend (the American Labor Day is always on the 1st Monday in September) cost the participants, according to the company website 665 dollars (600 euros). Numerous stops along the picturesque island chain were planned.
The website of the tour company "California Diving" shows the white charter boat "Conception". One would pray for those affected by misfortune and think of them, it says.
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