'It could have been me': Local diver recalls experience on California dive-boat that caught fire

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A recreational scuba diver from Northeast Philadelphia recounted his experience on the dive boat that burned off the coast of California leaving 34 presumably dead over Labor Day weekend.

"The diving community is not a huge community. When something like this happens it's pretty terrible," said Julian Hogan.

Local diving enthusiasts quickly heard about the deadly boat fire near Santa Cruz Island that happened early Monday morning.

At least 25 confirmed dead in boat fire in California
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At least 25 confirmed dead in boat fire in California: as seen on Action News Mornings, September 3, 2019.

"You think, 'Hey, it could've been me.' It's just terrible. You see how many people died. It's a really terrible thing," Hogan said

Hogan says he was on the Conception for several days in 2017. He took cell phone video of the bunk area to show a friend where he and about 30 others were sleeping.

A layout of the bunk area shows one exit to the galley, but Hogan says there was another way out - an escape hatch. He says he felt safe on the boat and was shocked to see the devastating blaze.

"I definitely made sure I knew how to get out and where the exits were. It seemed like they had a sufficient amount of smoke detectors," he said.

Hogan is an amateur underwater photographer and says the disaster won't stop him from going on future excursions.

"I might even bring a smoke or carbon monoxide detector with me but I'll definitely be doing more diving in the future," Hogan says.

Recovery efforts continue in Santa Barbara County to search for victims.

A cause of the massive blaze has not been determined.
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