Newsletter: Tragedy off Santa Cruz Island

The investigation into a deadly diving boat fire off the coast of California continues.


Tragedy off Santa Cruz Island


A fire. A mayday call. A grim search. Authorities are trying to determine exactly what went wrong on the Conception, a 75-foot commercial diving boat that burned off the coast of Santa Cruz Island as most of its passengers apparently slept early Monday morning. At least 15 people were confirmed dead and 19 were still missing as of late Monday. Among those caught in one of the worst maritime disasters in recent California history: Kristy Finstad, a 41-year-old marine biologist who grew up swimming the waters of the Channel Islands. Five people are known to have survived: all crew members who had been awake and jumped overboard. After crew members reached Shirley Hansen’s nearby fishing boat in a dinghy, two of them went back in hopes of rescuing others. “But they came back and there was no one that they found,” she said. The Conception now lies upside down at the bottom of the sea, in about 62 feet of water, as family and friends await answers on loved ones.

The diving boat Conception burned near the coast of Santa Cruz Island before sinking.
(Ventura County Fire Department)

More About the Fire

-- “I can’t breathe.... there’s no escape hatch”: Audio from a distress call from the boat.

-- A map of the Conception’s final voyage.

A Storm’s Deadly Toll

Hurricane Dorian has claimed its first victims, with Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis saying that at least five people had died in the Abaco Islands. “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy,” he said. The storm is expected to continue to pound Grand Bahama Island this morning. Meanwhile, millions of people along the southeastern coast of the United States are bracing for what comes next.

Tired of the Same Old Song

It’s been nearly three years since Donald Trump won the traditionally Democratic state of Michigan by fewer than 12,000 votes. Will next time be different? African American voters in Detroit could play a big role in the outcome. But Democrats can’t take them for granted. Many say they’re fed up with helping Democrats win, only to be undermined, sidelined or forgotten later. This time, they want assurances that the 2020 presidential candidates will deliver.

They’ll Always Have Prague

For Chinese couples looking to get married, a pre-wedding photo shoot has long been near the top of the must-do list. These days, Prague is a particularly popular destination for the more affluent from China, Hong Kong or Taiwan. And in the bigger picture, Czech officials report a 26% surge in the number of visitors from China in 2018 to 619,000 — a stronger increase in tourism than from any other nation.

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-- Fentanyl has surpassed heroin and prescription pills to become the leading driver of the opioid crisis and is now the top cause of U.S. overdose deaths. Today, officials say the majority is smuggled from Mexico.

-- It took two 15-year-old cheerleaders, two viral videos, a racial slur and a school board member on a tear to force Fresno to confront its painful past.

-- How William “Rick” Singer tried to smooth-talk USC’s athletic director, Pat Haden, amid the college admissions scandal.

-- The pangolin, an armored anteater that looks like a cross between an artichoke and a Pokémon, is being driven to the brink of extinction by poaching to meet demand in China for its meat and supposed curative powers.

-- How an L.A. man with cancer got a parking ticket while in the hospital and ended up losing his car.

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-- The Trump administration’s new “public charge” rule, which could allow the federal government to deny green cards to immigrants who use Medicaid or other forms of public assistance, is having a chilling effect on benefits for immigrants’ children.

-- A major agreement aimed at setting stronger standards for charter schools could intensify power struggles for seats on the Board of Education in Los Angeles.

-- One hundred “halos” will be installed at intersections across L.A. where drivers, pedestrians and cyclists were killed in traffic crashes. Each memorial will include a rainbow disc and a plaque, designed to raise awareness about traffic safety.


-- In uncertain times, TV series like “Younger” are turning the romantic comedy on its head, rejecting notions like “happily ever after” and “one true love.”

-- A number of Oscar season favorites emerged at the Telluride Film Festival: Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari,” the Judy Garland biopic “Judy” are among them.

-- The Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles will remain the home of the Emmy Awards at least through 2022.


-- Authorities say the gunman behind a mass shooting after a routine traffic stop in west Texas had just been fired from his job and had called police and the FBI before the rampage began.

-- Medics in Yemen say they pulled dozens of bodies from the rubble of a Houthi rebel-run detention center that was hit by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, killing more than 100 people and wounding dozens.

-- After more protests and clashes in Hong Kong, witnesses described brutal beatings by police. Says one: “I thought I was about to die.”

-- Grand Canyon officials are looking to make another run at corralling and reducing a herd of bison that could damage the landscape and water resources.


-- Big Oil has been placing its bets on green energy: BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Chevron and Saudi Aramco are increasingly investing in low-carbon technologies and clean energy start-ups.

-- You may already have heard that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to allow debt collectors to contact you as much as they want by text or email. What you may not know is that the proposal also would let them inform you of your rights by sending just a link to a web page.


-- Naomi Osaka’s attempt to win a second straight championship at the U.S. Open was thwarted when Belinda Bencic of Switzerland outplayed her at crucial moments, columnist Helene Elliott writes.

-- The late broadcaster Joe McDonnell never lost faith when it came to sports-talk radio working in Los Angeles. But columnist Arash Markazi thinks “Big Joe” wouldn’t like today’s landscape.


-- What should we do about L.A. sheriff’s deputies with histories of misconduct?

-- If Southern California leaders were questioning whether Gov. Gavin Newsom is serious about ending the state’s housing crisis, he’s given them a very clear answer. He is. And that’s a good thing.


-- Trump has repeatedly dismissed the recent testing of missiles by North Korea as “very standard,” but now American intelligence officials and outside experts say they show signs of an advancing arsenal that could overwhelm American defenses in the region. (New York Times)

-- Ransomware is proliferating across America, and the insurance industry has played a role in fueling and benefiting from it, by paying out ransoms and selling cyber insurance. (ProPublica)

-- Nostalgic for Blockbuster? Take it from a former part-time employee of the video chain: It wasn’t that great. (Vulture)


Just like thousands of Angelenos, Lakers superstar LeBron James likes eating tacos on Tuesdays. Look at his Instagram feed and you’ll see the video proof. But can he trademark the term “Taco Tuesday,” which is seen on many a menu across Southern California? According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, James’ company LBJ Trademarks has applied to do just that for downloadable videos, podcasts, marketing, blogging and online “entertainment services” — along with at least 10 other entities all shooting their shot.

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