Tragedy strikes dive boat team on Labor Day weekend

David Portillo, Reporter

Tragedy struck a dive boat team Labor Day weekend when a fire broke out on the dive teams’ boat, killing 34 of the 39 that were aboard. This all occurred Monday, Sept. 2, off Santa Cruz island. But the cause of the fire is still unknown.

The boat left the harbor at Santa Barbara with 33 passengers and 6 crew members aboard on Aug. 31, at 4 in the morning. 2:13 in the afternoon that same day the boat visits the Southside of Santa Cruz Island, and anchors for the night. Once Sunday approaches the boat reaches the North side of the island at around 8 in the morning and explores the area and anchors about 20 yards offshore. Monday, Sept. 2, the vessel reportedly catches fire.

Police say that the fire started at 3:15 in the morning and escalated to disaster shortly after. It is still a mystery of what caused the fire since fires can start spontaneously on a vessel at any time, but not typically when the engines of the boat aren’t even running.

CNN states that officials have recently identified 27 of the 34 victims who died. They ranged in ages the youngest being from 17 to 62. Authorities say that the investigation may take up to a year to be fully completed and will continue to investigate thoroughly to find out the cause of this tragedy.

John “Jack” Hickey, one of the nation’s most knowledgeable experts on maritime law, with more than three decades under his belt, gave his insight and some assumptions of what could have happened with the boat and crew.

Concerns about why the crew wouldn’t jump ship, or if they had anything to do with it, or if they were under the influence during the night arose. Authorities state that a toxicity report will be undergone with the 5 crew members who survived. All these questions and more will be taken into consideration once the investigation of this tragedy occurs.

The youngest victim was identified to be 17 years old and it was her birthday when she was on board the boat, the oldest passenger who turned 62, was also sharing a birthday with his whole family on board. A key question will be if the celebrations on board may have been the cause of the fire.

In the wake of this tragedy the coast guards have issued a new safety bulletin on battery charging on boats, and to be more prepared for situations like these if it were ever to occur again.