Concepcion bunk beds where 34 died after being trapped below deck by fire

This is the space where people slept on the ill-fated three-day diving expedition aboard Conception where at least 25 have died and more are feared dead.   

Nine others are still missing after a tragic boat fire early Monday near an island off the Southern California coast.

The dive-boat Conception, far out to sea in the middle of the night, became fully engulfed in flames as 30 passengers on a recreational scuba diving trip slept below deck.

At least five crew members, who had separate sleeping quarters, survived.

Among those feared dead are crew cook Micheal ‘Mikey’ Kohls and expedition leader Kristy Finstad, whose families have both made pleas to find their loved ones.

This is the space where people slept on the ill-fated three-day diving expedition aboard Conception where at least 25 have died and more are feared dead

This is the space where people slept on the ill-fated three-day diving expedition aboard Conception where at least 25 have died and more are feared dead

This is the space where people slept on the ill-fated three-day diving expedition aboard Conception where at least 25 have died and more are feared dead

‘You couldn’t ask for a worse situation,’ Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a Monday news conference.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll says at least 25 people on a recreational scuba-diving trip died and the search will continue through the night for the nine others still missing. 

He says five others have been found but not recovered due to unsafe conditions under the boat, which sank in about 60 feet (18 meters) of water. 

Kroll that says these numbers are based on initial reports and authorities are awaiting final counts from the autopsies.

Five crew members sleeping on the top deck jumped off and took a dinghy to safety. 

One is believed to have a broken leg and another is believed to be the boyfriend of one of the missing crew.

Kristy Finstad was the leader of the expedition

Kristy Finstad was the leader of the expedition

Michael Kohls was a cook on the boat

Michael Kohls was a cook on the boat

Among those feared dead are crew cook Micheal ‘Mikey’ Kohls (left) and expedition leader Kristy Finstad (right) whose families have both made pleas to find their loved ones

Footage taken from a previous experience on the the boat shows the tight living quarters

Footage taken from a previous experience on the the boat shows the tight living quarters

Footage taken from a previous experience on the the boat shows the tight living quarters

In a chilling recording of the mayday call, the captain of the Conception can be heard telling the Coast Guard that all of his passengers are trapped below deck ‘with no escape hatch’. 

‘There’s 33 people on board the vessel on fire. They can’t get off,’ the captain says.  

The dispatcher responds: ‘Roger. Are they locked inside the boat? Roger. Can you get back on board and unlock the doors so they can get off? Roger. You don’t have any firefighter gear at all, no fire extinguishers or anything?’ 

Most of the captain’s responses are unintelligible, except for the words: ‘I can’t breathe.’ 

He confirms that all the crew jumped off and the vessel is fully engulfed in flames.  

James Kohls, who's brother Mikey is a cook on the Conception, rushed to the Coast Guard headquarters in Oxnard, hoping to learn the fate of his brother on Monday morning

James Kohls, who's brother Mikey is a cook on the Conception, rushed to the Coast Guard headquarters in Oxnard, hoping to learn the fate of his brother on Monday morning

James Kohls, who’s brother Mikey is a cook on the Conception, rushed to the Coast Guard headquarters in Oxnard, hoping to learn the fate of his brother on Monday morning

West Wing actor Rob Lowe lead the tributes to the missing and dead crew and guests.

Taking to Twitter he wrote:  ‘My heart breaks for those onboard the Conception. An unspeakable horror on a boat I’ve been on many times. My prayers and thoughts are with the families.’

Many replied to his tweets saying they had friends or family missing, with one explaining ‘the crew quarters is in the wheelhouse, at the top of the boat. There are at least two flights of stairs between crew and passenger bunks below decks’.

James Kohls, who’s brother Mikey is a cook on the Conception, rushed to the Coast Guard headquarters in Oxnard, hoping to learn the fate of his brother on Monday morning.

Kristy Finstad, 41, of Santa Cruz was among the divers helping to lead the expedition aboard the Conception, which caught fire in the early morning hours on Monday.

Finstad’s brother, Brett Harmeling, 31, posted a message on his Facebook page which read: ‘Please pray for my sister Kristy!! She was leading a dive trip on this boat.’

The dive boat called Conception was anchored on the north side of Santa Cruz Island when it went up in flames

The dive boat called Conception was anchored on the north side of Santa Cruz Island when it went up in flames

The dive boat called Conception was anchored on the north side of Santa Cruz Island when it went up in flames

The dive-boat Conception, far out to sea in the middle of the night, became fully engulfed in flames as 30 passengers on a recreational scuba diving trip slept below deck

The dive-boat Conception, far out to sea in the middle of the night, became fully engulfed in flames as 30 passengers on a recreational scuba diving trip slept below deck

The dive-boat Conception, far out to sea in the middle of the night, became fully engulfed in flames as 30 passengers on a recreational scuba diving trip slept below deck

The Conception was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures, which says on its website that it has been taking divers on such expeditions since the 1970s

The Conception was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures, which says on its website that it has been taking divers on such expeditions since the 1970s

The Conception was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures, which says on its website that it has been taking divers on such expeditions since the 1970s

Finstad helped organize the trip with her husband, Dan Chua, through their family-owned company, Worldwide Diving Adventures.

The Conception was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures, which says on its website that it has been taking divers on such expeditions since the 1970s.

It was owned and operated by Truth Aquatics, a Santa Barbara-based company founded in 1974.

Chua did not accompany his wife on the trip. Instead, he was leading a separate diving expedition in Costa Rica, according to Harmeling.

‘She’s done this trip hundreds of times,’ Harmeling told the News.

Finstad is seen left alongside her husband, Dan Chua, in this undated file photo. The couple helped organize the weekend diving expedition through their family-owned company, Worldwide Diving Adventures

Finstad is seen left alongside her husband, Dan Chua, in this undated file photo. The couple helped organize the weekend diving expedition through their family-owned company, Worldwide Diving Adventures

Finstad is seen left alongside her husband, Dan Chua, in this undated file photo. The couple helped organize the weekend diving expedition through their family-owned company, Worldwide Diving Adventures

Finstad's brother said that Chua did not join his wife for the diving expedition in California. Instead, he was leading a separate trip in Costa Rica

Finstad's brother said that Chua did not join his wife for the diving expedition in California. Instead, he was leading a separate trip in Costa Rica

Finstad’s brother said that Chua did not join his wife for the diving expedition in California. Instead, he was leading a separate trip in Costa Rica

Divers were charged $665 per person for a three-night stay aboard the boat. The weekend trip included scuba excursions that offered a chance to see marine wildlife in the waters surrounding the Channel Islands.

Harmeling said that if anyone could survive a fire, it would be his sister. 

‘She’d be the person who could make it if it’s possible,’ he said.

‘She could hold her breath for an insane amount of time. It just doesn’t sound like there was a chance for anyone to get out.

‘She’s a very strong, strong woman…but they’ve been searching for a long time already.’

The image above shows the man believed to be Jerry Boylan, the captain of the Conception

The image above shows the man believed to be Jerry Boylan, the captain of the Conception

The image above shows the man believed to be Jerry Boylan, the captain of the Conception

Many of the surviving crew were distraught. They had taken their dingy to a private fishing boat, The Grape Escape, that was anchored near the north shore of Santa Cruz Island.

That boat’s owners, Bob and Shirley Hansen, told The New York Times they were asleep when they heard pounding on the side of their 60-foot (18-meter) vessel about 3.30 a.m. and discovered the frightened crew members.

‘When we looked out, the other boat was totally engulfed in flames, from stem to stern,’ Hansen said. 

‘I could see the fire coming through holes on the side of the boat. There were these explosions every few beats. You can’t prepare yourself for that. It was horrendous.’  

The crew, some only in underwear and two with leg injuries, had retrieved a dinghy and paddled 200 yards to the Hansens’ boat. 

People hug each other as they await news outside of the Truth Aquatics office in Santa Barbara on Monday

People hug each other as they await news outside of the Truth Aquatics office in Santa Barbara on Monday

People hug each other as they await news outside of the Truth Aquatics office in Santa Barbara on Monday

The captain of the Grape Escape, whose crew rescued the Conception crew members after the blaze broke out, is seen with first responders at Channel Island Harbor on Monday morning

The captain of the Grape Escape, whose crew rescued the Conception crew members after the blaze broke out, is seen with first responders at Channel Island Harbor on Monday morning

The captain of the Grape Escape, whose crew rescued the Conception crew members after the blaze broke out, is seen with first responders at Channel Island Harbor on Monday morning

Hansen said the men were distraught – one had a girlfriend below-deck on the Conception – and two of the men paddled back to look for survivors, but found none.    

She added another man cried, describing they had celebrated three passengers’ birthdays hours earlier, including that of a 17-year-old girl who was on the diving trip with her parents.

On social media, parents said at least two students and two passengers on board were students at Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz.

Meanwhile, authorities opened a family assistance center where counseling was being provided to relatives of those onboard.  

Link hienalouca.com

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