Man Who Rescued 5 Survivors From Deadly Boat Fire Shares Horrific Story

Five crew members of the "Conception," including the ship's captain, managed to escape the fire and were rescued by a nearby boat

The man who rescued the only known survivors of the deadly boat fire off the coast of Southern California said "there wasn't a place on the boat that wasn't on fire." 

Bob Hansen described his first look at the boat after his wife heard banging and woke him up around 3:30 a.m. on Monday. 

"The entire boat was engulfed, from the bow to the stern, and 30-foot flames," he said. "It was just terrible. It was just completely lit up."

At least 25 deaths have been confirmed, with nine people still missing Monday night. 

Five crew members of the Conception, including the ship's captain, managed to escape the fire and were rescued by Hansen's nearby boat, called "Grape Escape." Hansen said he saw 30-foot fires, explosions and a distraught crew.

The crew members said they were unable to save anyone else on board because the escape route was on fire, with the tiles from the ceiling falling down, according to Hansen. The five crew members, including the captain, jumped off the boat, Hansen said, before swimming to the back of the engulfed boat and escaping the conflagration via a dinghy on a line at the back of the boat.

One of the men told Hansen his girlfriend was sleeping below deck, and he wasn't able to help her. Hansen said that the boat was hosting three birthday parties, including one for a 17-year-old girl who was on board with her parents.

One of the rescued crew members had a broken leg and one was suffering from a sprained ankle, so the other three men took the dinghy and used a flashlight to look for survivors, but they didn't find anyone else alive.


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"They were all underneath and couldn't get out," Hansen said.

The crew said the fire exit and the galley entrance were both on fire, so the people below deck were likely trapped when the fire erupted.

"It's almost like, 'Are you serious? There are 34 people in there?' And I could see what looked like port holes or something in the side that weren't that far off the water and you could see fire behind them. They were all lit up. It was just, I'm still speechless."

Hansen said his boat would have been able to hold all 39 people on board the burning ship if there had been an evacuation, but sadly, he was only able to rescue the five people.

The Coast Guard arrived about an hour after Hansen radioed for help, he said, as they had to cover 25 miles in the dark, through fog.

"It wouldn't have made any difference if they were five minutes away," Hansen said.

Hansen added with a sigh, "I wish I could have done more."

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