Pasadena Dive Club Official Reacts to Santa Cruz Tragedy

Published : Tuesday, September 3, 2019 | 5:18 AM

A 75-foot vessel called the Conception was carrying 33 passengers and six crew when it went up in flames at about 3:30 a.m. on Monday just off Santa Cruz Island. So far, 25 victims have been recovered. Five crew members escaped. © Ventura County Fire Department

All of us at the Sole Searchers Dive Club are shocked at the tragedy aboard the Conception. We pray for them and their families.

Our initial survey of club membership indicates that none were aboard the boat.

The active dive community is rather small and the likelihood of knowing someone is high, though. I believe the boat was chartered by a Santa Barbara dive club/tour operation. Truth Aquatics, owners of the Vision, Truth and Conception, is a respected operation and runs the best service to the Channel Islands.

From listening to the mayday call it appears that the fire was quite sudden.

My complete guess was that it started in the galley. Though the boat was in compliance with Coast Guard regulations, unfortunately boats and ships do not have the same fire egress requirements from sleeping areas directly to the outside that homes and RVs have. One exit from the berths leads to the aft galley area. A second exit led to the forward deck hatch.

The backside of Anacapa and Santa Cruz Marine Preserve are wonderful dive spots but the seas can be heavy. The Conception was likely in the cove overnight before heading to a morning dive site.

This accident is more a boating accident than a diving one but it hits harder as a diver since we are on the water more regularly. Despite divers being exceptionally prepared for survival at sea with exposure suits, signaling devices and experience at sea, the hazards are plenty. Many divers are trained with rescue skills, first aid, CPR and Oxygen administration. If there was a hope for someone surviving a bad accident at sea, the divers aboard that boat would have the best chance.

In a fire situation, preparation and knowledge of the boat’s exits would be critical in what are small staterooms and passages.Whenever I travel on a live aboard dive boat, I make it a point to tour as much of the ship as possible including the engine room and bridge even if it is only a peak in to see what the ship is equipped with. Familiarity and knowledge with the ship affords an advantage in an emergency situation especially if the trip will be days from shore.

On my last live aboard overseas, the ocean was so rough, that another dive boat sank and was a total loss. Fortunately no lives were lost as everyone made it to life rafts.

I will hope for the best.


Lars Dennert is Secretary, Treasurer and Webmaster of the Sole Searchers Dive Club, Inc. is based in Pasadena, CA. The club is a Scuba Diving and recreational club with members in the San Gabriel Valley area which originally started as a Sport Chalet dive club and offshoot from JPL divers in the early 1990’s. “We are an easy-going group that enjoys the company of adventurous people,” Dennert once said. The group holds a monthly meeting at El Torito in Hastings Ranch with interesting speakers from the dive industry and all things ocean. Events include monthly beach and boat dives, beach BBQ’s, weekend camp and dive events, and at least one resort trip per year to either the south pacific or Caribbean.

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