Full Story:A holiday diving trip off the coast of Southern California turned into a nightmare early Monday when fire broke out aboard a boat just 20 yards from shore, killing up to 34 people trapped below deck, officials said.
As the 79-foot Conception’s captain and four colleagues jumped overboard off Santa Cruz Island near Santa Barbara, one other crew member and 33 passengers were sleeping below and had no way to escape, authorities said.
“Is the vessel fully engulfed now?’’ a US Coast Guard worker asked the captain, Jerry Boylan, in a distress call over the area’s emergency radio channel at 3:14 a.m.
“Roger. And there’s no escape hatch for any of the people on board,’’ the captain replied.
The operator asked, “Are they locked inside the boat? . . . Can you get back on board and unlock the doors so they can get off? . . . You don’t have any firefighter gear at all, no fire extinguishers or anything?”
The captain’s response is unclear, but a Coast Guard official later said the Conception was in “full compliance’’ with safety regulations.
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