Operation in search of survivors in a scuba diving boat off the California coast was halted yesterday after rescue teams found 20 bodies and traced four to six trapped underwater.
The bodies of all 11 women and nine men were taken to the coroner’s office after a 23-meter boat known as the Conception burned and collapsed Monday, trapping all passengers on the ground floor.
“Today we will begin the process of mapping the DNA profiles of all 20 victims so far to compare them with family samples,” Santa Barbara’s Sheriff, Bill Brown, told a media conference.
The boat was carrying divers around Santa Cruz Island, west of Santa Barbara in southern California when the tragedy struck early Monday.
Five crew members of the ship were able to jump into the water when the fire started at 3.15am (local time), before being rescued by another boat.
According to sources, the boat was carrying 39 individuals, of which 14 have not been found and are thought to have died.
Rescue crews yesterday began an effort to stabilize the boat to allow it to enter the lifeboat to bring all the bodies out.
People who mourned the tragedy gathered at the Santa Barbara jetty and erected memorials by placing colorful flower garlands and condolences throughout the jetty.
A photo of the young woman, surrounded by candles, appears with the note “I love you Allie” while another card reads “May you be there”.
The search operation saw three helicopters and boats circulate 160 miles in less than 24 hours but found no clue of survivors, said Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester.
Read also: Bahamas: Hurricane Dorian has taken 7 lives