25 dead when a boat packed with scuba divers caught fire

September 3, 2019

SANTA BARBARA – Divers and search crews were still looking Tuesday for nine missing people after at least 25 were confirmed dead when a boat packed with scuba divers caught fire near an island off the Southern California coast.

The dive-boat Conception became engulfed in flames before dawn as the passengers on a recreational scuba diving trip slept below deck.

“You couldn’t ask for a worse situation,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll said late Monday night at least 25 people died. He said 20 bodies were recovered and five others were found but not retrieved due to unsafe conditions under the boat, which sank in about 60 feet (18 meters) of water.

Kroll said the count of those found was based on initial reports and needed to be confirmed through autopsies.

The search for the missing went through the night and fog and low clouds on Tuesday were not expected to limit the search crews in their efforts, said Santa Barbara City Fire Department spokeswoman Amber Anderson.

Five crew members sleeping on the top deck jumped off and took a dinghy to safety. Two had minor injuries. A sixth crew member was among the missing.

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