Twenty bodies have been found after a 75-foot commercial diving boat on a Labor Day excursion caught fire off the coast of Santa Cruz Island in Southern California, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown who spoke to the New York Times.
More than a dozen passengers are still missing.
CNN previously reported eight bodies had been recovered. Santa Barbara County officials told CNN additional victims are being recovered, but could not verify the total number.
Brown said earlier on Monday that four bodies had been recovered and had yet to be identified. Four other victims were spotted at the bottom of the ocean “in close proximity” to the boat, named the Conception, he said.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” Brown said.
There were a total of 39 people on board — 33 passengers and six crew members, said Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester. Twenty-six people are missing.
“We all should be prepared to move into the worst outcome,” she told reporters.
Good Samaritans were able to save five crew members, who were awake in the main cabin and jumped off the fully engulfed boat, Rochester said. The passengers were below deck in the berthing area that’s primarily used for sleeping, the Coast Guard’s Aaron Bemis told CNN.
“The report that we got is that they were trapped by the fire,” Bemis said. “The fire was so intense that even after it was put out, we’re not able to actually embark the vessel and look for survivors at this point. It’s still ongoing.”
A mayday call revealed one side of the harrowing discussion between a Coast Guard dispatcher and the Conception’s captain. Only the dispatcher’s words were captured, but it provides insight into the panic the captain was experiencing.
Firefighters had difficulty snuffing out the fast-moving fire.
After the captain apparently reports a fire and provides a location, the dispatcher is heard saying, “And there’s 33 people on board the vessel that’s on fire, they can’t get off? … Roger, are they locked inside the boat? … Roger, can you get back on board and unlock the boat, unlock the door so they can get off? … Roger, you don’t have any firefighting gear at all? No fire extinguishers or anything?”
Later in the conversation, the dispatcher asks, “Was that all the crew that jumped off? … Roger, is the vessel fully engulfed right now … Roger, and there’s no escape hatch for any of the people on board?”
Of the crew who were rescued, one suffered minor injuries. Four of them were being taken ashore, while the Conception’s captain has opted to remain on the scene, Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Josue Mendez said.
Rochester earlier said the vessel was in compliance with regulations.
The cause of the blaze is not clear. Authorities said there is no evidence of a criminal act at this point.
The 75-foot Conception was on a three-day trip and was slated to return Monday.
James Kohls was in Oxnard waiting to learn the fate of his brother, Mike Kohls, the gallery cook and a deckhand on the Conception. At 4 a.m., his brother, a lifelong surfer and father of one daughter, is typically making breakfast for the passengers, James Kohls said.
“It’s very surreal at the moment,” he told reporters. “They were going to let me know whether he was one of the survivors that got off.”
Actor Rob Lowe tweeted Monday he had been on the Conception “many times.”
“My heart breaks for those onboard the Conception. An unspeakable horror on a boat I’ve been on many times. My prayers and thoughts are with the families,” Lowe tweeted.
Firefighters had difficulty snuffing out the fast-moving fire, Bemis said. Each time it was extinguished, it flared back up — perhaps because of the fuel on board, he said.
“The Conception burned down to the water line,” said Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason.
Foggy conditions also complicated the rescue operation.
The boat was about 20 miles off the mainland coast, near Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park. Authorities are searching the islands’ shorelines for survivors, the Coast Guard said.
As firefighters worked to put out the blaze, the boat sank in 64 feet of water, Rochester said. The hull is inverted.
The fire began about 3:14 a.m. (6:14 a.m. ET), Bemis said, and the Ventura County Fire Department said it was on the scene within 15 minutes.
Conception is based out of Santa Barbara Harbor, according to harbor patrol officer Nathan Alldredge.
Authorities responded to a call for fire and rescue support in the Platts Harbor area of Santa Cruz Island before 4 a.m., he said. When they arrived, they found “at least 30 passengers on board and (the boat was) fully involved in flames,” Alldredge said.
According to Truth Aquatics website, which conducts boat charters, Conception left Saturday on a three-day cruise and was scheduled to return Monday afternoon. CNN has reached out to Truth Aquatics for comment.
9-year-old genius to graduate university
(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.
Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.
Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.
He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.
His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.
“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.
Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.
While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.
But Lydia has her own theory.
“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.
The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.
“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.
“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”
Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.
“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”
Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”
His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.
“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.
“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”
While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.
“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”
Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.
However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.
In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.
Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.
New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne
Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem
Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.
The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.
Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.
🚨WANTED for ASSAULT: on 11/6 at approx 3:43 PM in front of 128 West 112th St in Manhattan, a 32 yr old male was walking with his 8 yr old son when a white BMW jumped the curb & hit the father & son. The driver then got out and slashed the father. Call @NYPDTips with any info. pic.twitter.com/cwd79rcM4c
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 15, 2019
Father and son were both knocked through a gate.
The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.
One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.
McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.
McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.
Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
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