Central Valley couple rescues 5 crew members in deadly Southern California boat fire

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FRESNO, California (KGPE/ KSEE) – A couple from Madera was among the first on the scene to help the crew of a burning boat off the Southern California Coast.

The couple says what they woke up to was frightening.

Dramatic video shows this vessel – named Conception – in flames. When it caught fire overnight, officials say 38 people were on board.

A Central Valley couple, Bob and Shirley Hansen were on their boat, Grape Escape, when they say they woke up to a banging sound on the side of it.

“I heard help and my husband got up and I followed him and he opened the door and he saw the flames,” Shirley Hansen said.

Her husband heartbroken, describing the horrific moment, “The flames and knowing their are people on board you can only imagine the horror they’re going through.”

The Madera couple jumped into action, helping to rescue five crew members.

Search and rescue teams are still working to recover others on the boat.

“It’s just a tragedy,” says Michael Sahakian, owner of the Aqua Sports – The Diver’s Dive Shop in Fresno.

Sahakian is also a diver with more than 40 years of experience and he knows a thing or two about the Conception dive boat, pictured here in the middle.

He says just a few years ago he stayed aboard — taking part in an excursion.

“I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls wanting to know if we were on the boat or anyone we know was on it,” Sahakian expressed.

Authorities say Conception left from Santa Barbara Harbor on Saturday at 4 a.m., embarking on a three-day dive.

According to reports some passengers were asleep below deck as flames broke out, possibly trapping them.

Sahakian explaining what that area of the boat is like, “You’re down below and to be able to exit the ship you have to come out through the galley that’s where all the cooking, the kitchen area is.”

According to reports, crew members were on the top deck of the boat at the time of the fire.

Sahakian calls this tragedy is rare. “You never could predict it, more people get killed in car accidents,” he expressed.

So far, the company that owns the Conception, has not commented on the tragedy. The Coast Guard said in the past, the boat has been in full compliance with regulations.

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