Conception boat fire: Loved ones dedicate underwater memorial to honor victims on 1-year anniversary

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (KABC) -- An underwater memorial was dedicated off the Santa Barbara coast Wednesday to honor all 34 victims who were lost one year ago in the Conception boat fire.

On the tragedy's one-year anniversary, family members and friends of the victims took a dive in water to take part in the heartfelt tribute.

"It's a big plaque with the names of all 34 who were lost on a big granite boulder and it's been placed at the floor of the cove where the Conception burned and sank," said Marc Shargel, whose friend was among those who died on the vessel.

Others who showed up at the site of a memorial, where a growing collection of flowers and photos of the victims stood at the harbour, lost more than one person in the tragedy.

Susana Solano Rosas' two daughters and ex-husband perished in the boat fire. She visited the memorial Wednesday to see the memorial plaque with all three of their photos.

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In a new interview, Eyewitness News spoke with one of the first responders to the Conception boat fire, a civilian woken up in the middle of the night who raced to the scene to help.

"Not a day goes by that I probably don't have something that reminds me of it, that I think about it still, and it's been a year now," said Paul Amaral, who captained the tow board that sped to the Conception off the coast of Santa Cruz Island.

By the time rescue vessels reached the burning boat, it was fully engulfed in flames. Five crew members managed to jump from the Conception but the 34 passengers who were trapped below deck died.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but court documents say criminal charges against the vessel's captain are imminent.

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The first anniversary of the scuba boat fire that killed 34 people off Southern California has been commemorated at Santa Barbara Harbor, where the ill-fated trip began and a memorial has been put in place.

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