Over 30 feared dead after boat engulfed in flames off California coast

Santa Barbara County Fire Department a dive boat is engulfed in flames after a deadly fire broke out aboard the commercial scuba diving vessel off the Southern California Coast Monday morning Boat Fire California- 02 Sep 2019

"Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this bad tragedy", Brown said.

It appears the Conception had been on a three-day Labor Day diving cruise at the time of the fire, according to the website for a local excursion company.

A pair of diving fins and flowers at a memorial wall near the Truth Aquatics moorings where the boat that burned and sank off the Santa Cruz islands early in the morning, was based in Santa Barbara, California on September 2, 2019.

The debris field spanned almost 1.5 miles (2.4km), said Sheriff Brown. "You have a vessel that's on the open sea, that is in the middle of the night".

Emergency personnel received a report about 3:30 a.m.

The boat was carrying 33 passengers and six crew members - the majority of whom were sleeping below deck. The US media broadcast an excerpt of the SOS radioed by a crew member.

Commander Jay Donovan of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that the divers from multiple law enforcement agencies are using their hands because of limited visibility and search in grids as they look for nine people who are still missing. On Tuesday, search crews will make the grim transition from a rescue mission to a recovery operation.

According to Mr. Bemis, the fire broke out around 3:15 am (10:15 GMT) and the rescuers were notified by radio about fifteen minutes later.

A mayday call revealed one side of the harrowing discussion between a Coast Guard dispatcher and the Conception's captain.

The federal National Transportation Safety Board said it had sent a team of engineers and fire specialists to investigate the blaze.

"We're always hopeful that there would be more survivors found ... doing everything we can to see if anyone could have survived this", the sheriff said. So you can imagine that of all scenarios - to be in a remote location, have a fire that occurs, have limited, if any, firefighting capabilities that could address that and then to have all of a sudden a fire that spread very, very rapidly. "No fire extinguishers or anything?"

Five crew members jumped in the ocean and were rescued. "Roger, and there's no escape hatch for any of the people on board?"

In a distress call made from the Conception, a clearly frightened man said he couldn't breathe.

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Capt. Brian McGrath of the Ventura County Fire Department confirmed some deaths to The Associated Press but said he could not give an exact number.

By 7:20 a.m., the ship began to sink in 64 feet of water.

Authorities say the people killed when fire engulfed a dive boat off Southern California will have to be identified through DNA.

Grimmesey encouraged people who have been directly impacted by the tragedy to get support for themselves and their loved ones at the center, and to connect with other families sharing the same loss.

The company that operates the Conception, Truth Aquatics, declined to comment to CNN. She was led away by a Ventura County firefighter. Five of the six-strong crew managed to escape in an inflatable boat, but no one else has been found.

"I proceeded to do a coastline search for passengers, and once I didn't find anyone, I offered assistance on fire fighting".

"It's inconceivable that with all the safety regulations we have in place today, a fire on a boat can lead to the loss of life we saw this morning", she said in a statement.

Brown says explosions a witness on another boat reported happened after the fire was underway and could have been scuba or propane tanks exploding.

He added, however, that they were feared dead.

James Kohls was in Oxnard waiting to learn the fate of his brother, Mike Kohls, the gallery cook and a deckhand on the Conception.

The initial critical moments of the deadly fire that engulfed a dive boat off Southern California are still under investigation. "The 34 passengers were below decks".

The Ventura Fire department tweeted photos from fire-fighters at the scene. But the odds are stacked against them.

Brown said he still holds some hope. Three to four dives a day, anchor up for the night, turn up the music and pour the drinks.

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