If not for complications from a hip-replacement surgery, Torrance resident Dale Sheckler, 62, could have been one of the victims in Monday’s tragic dive boat incident in the Channel Islands.
Recovery crews were still working Tuesday to bring ashore more of the presumed 34 people who died when the boat caught fire and sunk in Platts Harbor on the northern end of Santa Cruz Island.
Sheckler called it divine intervention that he wasn’t on the boat.
“My heart goes out to those who lost their lives and their families, but at the same time it feels like divine intervention I was not on that boat,” he said.
The trip, he said, was being booked by Worldwide Diving Adventures out of Santa Cruz. The dive shop owner and several high school students were on board, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Sheckler, who has dove off the boat an estimated 100 times, said the boat’s operator, Truth Aquatics out of Santa Barbara Harbor, had an impeccable reputation. He said the company built the boat from the ground up in 1981. Whenever he was on board, he said the crew always went over fire and evacuation procedures before departing.
Sheckler said that while the bunks down below were somewhat cramped, the vessel was actually more spacious than a lot of other dive boats. Sheckler and his wife Kim were the longtime publishers of California Diving News before selling the company a few years ago.
A possible cause of the fire as well had not been disclosed as of Tuesday morning. Five of the six crew members — the only known survivors — were brought to safety by an adjacent boat.
Santa Barbara resident Jennifer Stafford console a young woman who said her sister was on board.
“It’s just shocking and so sad,” Stafford said.