Investigators say the crew of the dive ship that sank off Santa Cruz Island coast made several attempts to save the 34 people who were trapped by fire and died.
All those lost in the Labor Day tragedy were sleeping below deck when fire broke out around 3 a.m. The captain and four crew members above deck survived.
Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the cause, said all five were interviewed and described the terrifying situation.
One was awakened by a noise and saw flames pouring from the galley area.
The fire spread quickly, and one crew member broke a leg jumping to the deck but still tried to get to the 33 passengers and one crew member in a bunk room below. The crew member was driven back by flames.
They also tried to get through windows to help those trapped but couldn't and then abandoned ship. The crew soon returned in a skiff but couldn't find any survivors.
“What’s emerging from the interviews is a harrowing story of the last few minutes before the boat was engulfed in flames,” Homendy said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “They felt that they had done what they could do in a very panicked situation.”