Eight Deaths Confirmed In Excursion Boat Fire In Santa Barbara County; 26 Still Missing

Sep 2, 2019

The search continues for possible survivors of an excursion boat fire in the Channel Islands, but eight deaths have now been confirmed, with 26 people still missing.

The Conception was on a Labor Day weekend dive boat trip out of Santa Barbara with 39 people on board when it was hit by a fire at around 3:30 Monday morning.

The ship sent out a mayday call, but when Coast Guard teams and Ventura County firefighters reach the scene off of Santa Cruz Island, the boat was enveloped in flames.  Five crew members who were on deck at the time of the fire were able to jump into the ocean and were rescued by a nearby boat.  

But more than 30 passengers were below deck, sleeping.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown says they recovered the bodies of two men and two women during the day Monday, and were in the process Monday night of recovering four more bodies found on the ocean floor.

Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester says search efforts will continue overnight Monday into Tuesday, but she cautioned that we should be prepared for the worst. 

When asked about the boat's safety record, Rochester said that the Conception underwent annual inspections, and was in compliance with regulations at the time of the incident.

She would not speculate on the cause of the fire, or whether an explosion might have occured before the blaze.