California boat fire – Four dead and 29 missing after 75ft dive boat bursts into flames as captain screamed ‘they can’t get off’

A CHILLING distress call from a dive boat which burst into flames off the Californian coast reveals the true horror as the captain is heard screaming “they can’t get off.”

It’s feared up to 30 passengers may have burned in their beds as the inferno ripped through the 75ft Conception’s upper deck near Santa Cruz island.

A devastating blaze may have killed dozens after tearing through a diving boat off the Californian coast
The fire was so vicious that emergency workers couldn’t board the boat
Reuters

People hug each other as they await news outside of the Truth Aquatics office in Santa Barbara
AP:Associated Press

People hug each other as they await news outside of the Truth Aquatics office in Santa Barbara[/caption]

Four bodies have tonight been recovered near the shell of the boat and 29 are still missing, according to reports from the scene.

Capt. Brian McGrath of the Ventura County Fire Department confirmed there are “some fatalities” but he could not give an exact number.

Now a clip of the ship’s emergency call reveals how the captain told how all of his passengers were trapped below deck…“with no escape hatch.”

Audio of the harrowing 3.14am recording includes a Coast Guard operator first frantically asking for information on the emergency off the coast of southern California.

“What is the emergency? Over. … Conception, what is the emergency? Over!”, the operator says, referring to the dive tour boat.

Firefighters battled to contain the blaze

Santa Barbara City Search and Rescue along with Santa Barbara Sheriff's officers move a recovered body on the dock at Santa Barbara Harbor
AP:Associated Press

Rescue teams move a recovered body on the dock at Santa Barbara Harbor[/caption]

A man who later identifies himself as the captain responds: “On board a vessel on fire.”

“Your vessel is on fire? Roger. Are you aboard the Conception?”, the Coast Guard worker asks.

The captain confirms he is from the craft and says: “There’s 33 people on board the vessel on fire. They can’t get off.”

The Coast Guard worker responds: “Roger. Are they locked inside the boat? Roger. Can you get back on board and unlock the doors so they can get off? Roger. You don’t have any firefighter gear at all, no fire extinguishers or anything?”

The captain’s reply is unclear

The Coast Guard operator says: “Is this the captain of the Conception?”

“Roger”, the man replies.

The Coast Guard worker then asks: “Was that all the crew that jumped off?”

The unidentified captain replies: “Roger.”

The operator asks:  “Is the vessel fully engulfed now?”

The captain replies: “Roger. And there’s no escape hatch for any of the people on board.”

The Coast Guard worker asks:  “How far away are you from the boat right now?”

The captain’s answer is unclear amid the static.

“Are there any other vessels in that area that can help with firefighting?”, the operator asks.

Only static can be heard on the recording.

The Coast Guard worker is then heard putting out a general distress call, saying it “received a report of a vessel on fire with 33 people, correction, 34 people, trapped below deck … Any vessel in the area that can rend any assistance, please do so.”

Emergency workers rushed to the scene with rescue boats and a helicopter in the early hours of this morning.

Coastguard chief Aaron Bemis said: “The report we got was they were trapped by the fire.

“The fire was so intense that even after it was put out, we’re not able to actually embark the vessel and, you know, look for survivors at this point. It’s still ongoing.”

James Kohl waits at the gate of the Ventura County Coast Guard station for news of his brother Mike Kohl, age 58, who was a cook on the dive boat
Getty – Contributor

James Kohl waits for news of his brother Mike Kohl, age 58, who was a cook on the dive boat[/caption]

A member of the crew believed to be the captain of the dive boat that caught fire and sank off the coast of California
Getty – Contributor

A member of the crew believed to be the captain of the dive boat that caught fire and sank off the coast of California[/caption]

 A member of the crew of the Good Samaritan boat called the Grape Escape that responded to help the dive boat
Getty – Contributor

A member of the crew of the Good Samaritan boat called the Grape Escape that responded to help the dive boat[/caption]

It is believed that 39 people were on board – 34 of which remain “unaccounted” for.

Five crew members escaped the blaze, including the ship’s captain who suffered a broken leg.

They were rescued by a passing good Samaritan pleasure craft, authorities said.

The crew – who were sleeping on the top deck – escaped from the main cabin as flames billowed around the hull, however the 34 passengers who were on the lower deck remain unaccounted for.

Conception was hosting a £550-a-head diving trip for the US labour day weekend.

The trip’s itinerary boasted of “gourmet cuisine” by a specially-trained chef and “delightful” night-time sea dives.

Conception is described as having “a revised galley and bunk layout, including more double bunks, bathrooms, and shower” which makes it “ideal for large charter groups”.

Local sources claim the boat is being treated as a crime scene.

A Coastguard spokesman said: “The Coast Guard has launched multiple rescue assets along with assets from local agencies to assist more than 30 people in distress on a 75ft boat near Santa Cruz Island.”

The 75ft Conception burst into flames at 4am
Passengers were trapped in the cabin below deck
It was custom-built for diving trips
Glen Fritzler/MarineTraffic.com

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