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Clark Magnet teacher, sheriff’s volunteer aids in Conception tragedy recovery efforts

Dominique Evans-Bye
Clark Magnet High School environmental geographic information science teacher Dominique Evans-Bye, here diving near the Los Angeles River last September, assisted in the Conception boat fire rescue and recovery efforts last Tuesday. Evans-Bye operated an underwater remotely operated vehicles near Platt Harbor, right off Santa Cruz Island.
(File Photo)

Clark Magnet High School science teacher Dominique Evans-Bye received the sort of call she was well-trained to handle but never expected on Labor Day.

That morning, Evans-Bye was contacted by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, for whom she has served as a volunteer public safety diver since 1992, to help in the rescue and recovery efforts for the worst maritime disaster in the state’s history.

Earlier that day, 34 people died in the Conception boat fire investigators believe broke out around 3:15 a.m. off Santa Cruz Island, about 32 miles southwest of Ventura.

“My main motivation for responding to the Conception tragedy was to help bring closure to the families of the victims,” Evans-Bye said. “I can’t imagine how devastating it must be to lose a loved one in an accident like this.”

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Along with diving, Evans-Bye has served as the Ventura County Sheriff’s research-and-development officer for almost a decade, while she is also a skilled operator of underwater remotely operated vehicles or ROVs.

Her talents were put to use last Tuesday when Evans-Bye spent most of the day aboard a sheriff’s boat operating a 25-pound, $100,000 VideoRay Pro 4 ROV utilized in her geographic information science and mapping classes at Clark Magnet.

Clark Magnet graduate Shaye Holladay McCarthy enrolled in Evans-Bye’s geographic information science classes the past two years and said the teacher’s efforts provided motivation.

“After going on a trip where we cleaned up the L.A. River a bit, that definitely inspired me to want to take part in other cleanup days, especially the ones at beaches to protect the ocean,” Holladay McCarthy said.

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This time, however, instead of seeking sea pollutants or oil, Evans-Bye was searching for human remains and ruins.

“There were still people missing when we responded, and they wanted to make sure that no one had floated away down current,” Evans-Bye said. “Between the divers and the ROV, we covered it thoroughly and just determined that no one was in our search area.”

Locator map of Conception boat fire
Clark Magnet High School music teacher Dominique Evans-Bye was contacted by Ventura County Sheriffs, for whom she has served as a volunteer public safety diver since 1992, to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts for the worst maritime disaster in the state’s history. Earlier that day, 34 people died in the Conception boat fire investigators believe broke out around 3:15 a.m. off Santa Cruz Island, which is about 32 miles southwest of Ventura.
(Los Angeles Times)

Evans-Bye was a part of a large team from Ventura County that helped in the efforts by Santa Barbara and Los Angeles county sheriff’s departments.

Evans-Bye said, in all, there were 16 Ventura divers along with the ROV working that day. Her area included depths of 40 feet near Platt Harbor, right off Santa Cruz Island.

Previously, Evans-Bye had worked on hundreds of rescue efforts in Lake Piru, the Channel Islands and Point Mugu, having found bodies of unlucky night watchmen, retirees and teenagers.

On Tuesday, she found nothing, though she said Ventura divers uncovered so much charred wood they designed their area a “debris field.”

The tragedy, which claimed several professional divers and sea lovers, was difficult for Evans-Bye.

“It’s really sad because the dive community is such a tight, close-knit community,” she said.

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That sense of community led Evans-Bye to Ventura on Tuesday.

“If I can bring any measure of comfort by participating in recovery efforts,” she said, “then I am very willing to take time off work to do so.”

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