Salvage efforts to recover the dive boat Conception that sank in the waters off Santa Cruz Island after a blaze that killed 34 people have been suspended because of weather and safety concerns, officials said Saturday.
Operations were suspended Friday afternoon because of increased winds, swells and currents, said the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. Efforts are expected to resume Monday.
The owner of the boat contracted Global Diving and Salvage to conduct the operation, which is being overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The 75-foot vessel, which was lying inverted on the ocean floor near Santa Barbara, has been up-righted but remains submerged in about 60 feet of water, sheriff’s officials said. The boat, which investigators are eager to comb through for evidence, has been secured in place.
“This is an important step to this process,” Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester said Friday of the salvage operation. “It’s an incremental effort to make sure we try our deliberative best to make sure we keep the vessel intact.”
The Conception was anchored off Santa Cruz Island on Labor Day when the fire broke out. Thirty-nine people were on board for a three-day scuba diving trip.
Five crew members jumped overboard and survived. The passengers and a sixth crew member were asleep below deck and were trapped by the flames, officials said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Officials have recovered the bodies of 33 people who were trapped aboard the ship. One person is still missing.
Once crews are able to pull the sunken vessel out of the water, they plan to place it on a barge and move the boat to shore so investigators can go through it.
“As the vessel is moved during the operation,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said, “our divers will search the area that [has] heretofore been inaccessible to them as well as search, again, the vessel itself for the last victim.”