Officials said there’s no indication anyone who was below decks escaped, when a fire erupted on a dive boat off Southern California.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown announced the news Tuesday, Sept. 3, as the Coast Guard and other agencies suspended the search for additional survivors beyond the five crew members who were rescued early Monday morning off Santa Cruz Island.
Brown said “Sadly no additional survivors have been found. An additional 16 victims were located in yesterday afternoon’s efforts and were brought back to our coroner’s bureau. “Brown said the recovered remains include 11 females and nine males and DNA will be used to identify them.”
There were believed to be 33 passengers and one crew member sleeping below decks at the time. They are presumed dead. Brown said it appears that the berthing quarters exit and an escape hatch were blocked by the fire. Crew members who escaped from the dive boat have submitted written statements to officials and were expected to be interviewed on Tuesday.
The sheriff-coroner said the explosions a witness on another boat reported happened after the fire was underway and could have been oxygen or propane tanks exploding.
Brown also said there were several other victims that were seen by the divers, somewhere between four and six, that are still within the wreckage. But due to the positioning of the boat they were unable to be recovered before nightfall. He added that today they would make efforts to stabilize the boat so that divers can safely enter it, search it and recover any additional victims.
Brown said it appeared as though the people who were below deck were trapped and unable to exit the vessel and it looked as though the two exit points were blocked by fire. There are still at this stage 14 people who are missing, and the bodies that are still within the wreckege they hoped to recover by the end of Tuesday.
Includes reporting from The Associated Press