33 feared dead in boat fire off Santa Barbara County coast

September 2, 2019


Authorities fear 33 people died after a boat caught fire off the Channel Islands Monday morning and sank as firefighters were trying to extinguish the blaze.

At about 3:15 a.m., Conception, a 75-foot commercial diving vessel made a mayday. There were 38 people aboard the boat, which was on a three-day diving trip that left Santa Barbara on Saturday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The boat was anchored off the north side of Santa Cruz Island, which is near the Santa Barbara and Ventura County coasts. Crews from the Coast Guard, Vessel Assist and the Santa Barbara and Ventura County fire departments arrived at the scene.

Fire department crews were battling the blaze when the boat sank 20 yards offshore in 64 feet of water, according to the Coast Guard.

Emergency responders rescued five people, but at least initially, authorities could not account for the other 33 individuals aboard the vessel. The five people rescued were crew members who were awake above deck and jumped into the water.

People on a nearby vessel, The Grape Escape, rescued the five crew members. There were 33 people below deck.

Numerous Coast Guard rescue crews were deployed to the scene after the boat sank.

A portion of the boat was sticking out of the water later in the morning.

Shocked in MB

I have always feared working With or For people who immediately are interested in looking for the person responsible for errors etc. These are normally not people who want to resolve problems. They thrive more on WHO than WHY.

Let the police/Coast Guard etc do the investigation while the rest of us mourn for the people who are impacted.


Pretty irresponsible to be coming down so heavy on the crew when you are absolutely clueless to the circumstances they were in. The smoke hasn’t even cleared and already they’re being vilified. I guess we have to all remember nowadays that the court of public opinion is far more important then the actual facts that will eventually surface by investigation.


You are wrong! Now is exactly time to be assessing blame. The crew of vessels at sea don’t all just go to bed at one time; crew members takes turns standing a watch ( 4- 6 hours), so that things don’t happen unnoticed. The five who saved themselves need to do some explaining. The last man off the ship is supposed to be the Captain.


You are exactly right. There is no way that fire could have gone to the extent that it did without improper watch keeping. The law requires somebody to be on watch 24 hours a day, usually at 4 hour intervals. Going about the vessel, checking all compartments for problems. There is no way that fire could have reached the extent that it did unless someone was asleep on watch. -47 years, Master 1600 ton USCG licensed mariner. Any of the keyboard captains want to challenge that?


No words really . Not the time for blaming or “what if’s “…. May these souls Rest In Peace and May there be comfort to the families in this time of deepest sorrow . God speed to those who loved the beauty of the deep . You won’t be forgotten.

And to those who tried to save them in vain , frustrated by the situation and frantic to do your job , thank you for the efforts you made .


The boat had only one escape hatch forward and the companionway out to the aft deck. The passengers probably were totally unaware of the escape hatch forward and most likely succumbed to smoke inhalation and then burned. The crew that jumped over board without helping the passengers should be tried and imprisoned. There is no excuse. Only rats abandon ship when the job is to assist the passengers.


Absolutely terrible and tragic. Prayers to those lost and especially to those there waiting for word of their loved ones.

This hits hard. I’ve spent a great deal of time on nearly identical sportfishers and it’s clear how this scenario “could” have played out. The timing is impeccably bad with likely all the passengers down below in their berths. Typically you have to come up from the staterooms below by ladder and that puts you into the galley and main salon to get to the rearward facing exit and main deck. Crew and Captain’s quarters are generally on the top deck near the bridge. Purely speculation on my part but if a fire started and grew in the galley, that would essentially block the egress for passengers. The crew would be above it, hence the reason they were able to possibly fight and then escape. This is going to be incredibly hard on them knowing the incredible loss.

There’s talk of a propane explosion so it will be interesting to find out if that is what started it or was it a result of “cooking off” a tank after an initial fire.

Regardless, what a terrible tragedy.


IFAIK Passenger boats can’t have propane. The generally use electric cooking appliances. Nw that may have changed in the last 40 years but doubtful.