34 People Feared Dead After Diving Boat Catches Fire in California

Playing Coast Guard Searches for Dozens Missing After California Boat Catches Fire

Authorities have found what they believe to be the remains of 25 people after a diving boat caught fire off Santa Cruz Island, California, early Monday, according to officials.

Thirty-four people were reported missing and feared dead after the 75-foot diving vessel, Conception, caught fire and sank Monday morning. At least nine people are still unaccounted for, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll told NBC News.

The recovered remains still need to be examined by the coroner, and "numbers may change," he said.

None of the victims have been identified.

Rescuers had responded to the scene around 3:30 a.m. Monday.

"The only mayday call we received was the vessel was engulfed in flames. That's all we received," said Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester at a press conference Monday.

The fire is believed to have broken out while passengers were sleeping in bunks beneath deck.

"The crew was actually already awake and on the bridge and they jumped off," Rochester said. Five crew members were then rescued by another vessel.

Ventura County FD
Ventura County FD

Conception is owned by Truth Aquatics, a boat rental company, CBS LA reported. A CBS LA employee, Darla Fletcher, who has taken multiple trips with the company, told the channel that divers sleep below deck.

"Typically, the crew members will sleep up top, they’re not gonna sleep down there with the divers," she said. "Especially on a full boat like this weekend, there were probably divers filling every possible bunk."

She only had praise for the company, calling them "just an amazing group of people."

At this stage it is not known was caused the fire, which occurred when the boat was anchored off Santa Cruz Island.

Santa Cruz Island is south of Santa Barbara and west of Los Angeles.

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