2 Singaporeans believed to be among 34 killed in California boat fire – here’s what we know

Tan Wei and Sunil Singh Sandhu were both asleep below deck when the fire broke out at 3.30am.
Facebook/Cheerin Tan, Courtesy of Sunil Sandhu’s family

Two Singaporeans – a 26-year-old postgraduate student and a 46-year-old researcher – are believed to have died in a boat fired that claimed 34 lives on Monday (September 2).

According to The Straits Times, student Tan Wei and Sunil Singh Sandhu were both asleep below deck, along with 28 other passengers, when the fire broke out at 3.30am.

On Wednesday, Business Insider reported that 20 bodies had been recovered, while the search for the remaining victims – all presumed dead – had been suspended.

The Straits Times on Thursday night reported that all but one body had been recovered. As the bodies were badly burnt, authorities are identifying them with a DNA analysis tool usually used in war zones.

Boat was on Labour Day excursion

The boat, named Conception, was carrying 39 passengers and crew at the time of the fire. It had been chartered for a three-day excursion over the Labour Day weekend in the US.

The cause of fire is not known at this point.

In another report, Business Insider quoted the sheriff of Santa Barbara as saying that the 75-foot vessel was in “the worst-case scenario” as it was in the open sea in the middle of the night, when most people were sleeping.

“The majority of the people were the passengers on the ship, and the sleeping compartment was on the bottom deck of the ship, so they would have been sound asleep when this fire started.

“So you can imagine of all scenarios, to be in a remote location, have a fire that occurs, have limited if any fire fighting capabilities that could address that, and then to all the sudden have a fire that spread very very rapidly, you couldn’t ask for a worse situation,” sheriff Bill Brown said.

Singaporeans were working in the US

The Straits Times said Tan Wei was a graduate from the Master of Engineering course at UC Berkeley, specialising in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, and worked as a data scientist at a tech company in Santa Barbara.

The New Paper said Sunil Sandhu had lived and worked in the US for over 20 years and only recently took up scuba diving.

Tan Wei’s sister confirmed her death in a Facebook announcement, while Sunil Sandhu’s parents confirmed the news in an interview with The New Paper.

Survivors went back to find others

According to earlier reports, five crew members – who were above deck at the time – managed to escape the fire by jumping into a rescue dinghy and paddling to a nearby yacht. They then banged on the yacht’s hull until its owners woke up.

They were then given blankets and sweaters as some of them were only wearing their underwear. One of them had a broken leg, ABC News 7 reported.

Two of the survivors paddled back to the boat to look for survivors, but were unable to find anyone, the LA Times reported.

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