Couple: Crew Said Fire Made Passengers' Rescue Impossible

And more on the devastating Labor Day blaze aboard the Conception dive boat
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2019 3:08 PM CDT

(Newser) – The couple that rescued the five crew members who escaped the horrifying blaze aboard a California dive boat Monday say that the captain of the Conception was among the five, and he told them the rear escape hatch was engulfed in flames, making it impossible for the crew to get below deck and help the 33 passengers and one additional crew member trapped there. Shirley Hansen, who was in the area with her husband Bob on their boat Grape Escape off the coast of Santa Cruz Island in California's Channel Islands, says one crew member who came aboard was inconsolable as he described the passengers, including a 17-year-old girl who had celebrated her birthday with her parents the night before. "He was crying, because he knew they were still on the boat," she tells CBS News. Adds Bob, "And one of the crewmen, his girlfriend was also on the boat. And she was down there." He says the crew members were going through "horror." More on the tragedy:

  • The death toll: At a press conference Tuesday morning, the Coast Guard announced it had called off the search for survivors, KEYT reports. All 34 people who did not make it off the boat are presumed dead; 20 bodies have been recovered and divers have located between five and seven additional bodies inside the wreckage that are not yet able to be recovered. Dive crews are hoping to be able to do that Tuesday, as well as search for additional victims.
  • "There was no one": Shirley Hansen says two of the crew members got back in the dinghy they had used to escape the burning boat and get to Grape Escape. They went back to see if anyone else on board had made it off the boat and needed to be rescued, but "they came back and there was no one that they found."

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