The commercial scuba diving vessel was engulfed in flames after a deadly fire broke out aboard. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
Several people have died and rescuers are searching for 33 more after a fire broke out aboard a dive boat off the southern California coast on Monday morning (local time).
- The dive boat was on a Labor Day weekend cruise taking divers to the Channel Islands
- Ventura County Fire Department responded to the fire at 3:30am local time
- Crews were fighting the flames when the vessel sank 18 metres off shore
Captain Brian McGrath of the Ventura County Fire Department confirmed some deaths to The Daily Beast, but said he could not give an exact number.
Lieutenant Commander Matthew Kroll of the US Coast Guard said five crewmembers sleeping on the top deck of the 20-metre commercial scuba diving vessel were rescued.
A statement by the agency said they were evacuated aboard a passing good Samaritan pleasure craft. One of the crew suffered minor injuries.
But 33 passengers who were sleeping below deck have not been accounted for.
VCFD responded to boat fire off the north side of Santa Cruz Island at approximately 3:28am. (Twitter: @VCFD_PIO)
The Coast Guard has helicopters, small boats and a patrol cutter in the area for a search-and-rescue operation off of Santa Cruz Island, about 140 kilometres from Los Angeles.
In a statement, the Coast Guard said fire department crews were fighting the flames when the vessel sank 18 metres off shore in 19.5 meters of water. A portion of the bow is sticking out of the water.
The dive boat was on a Labor Day weekend cruise taking divers to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.
It departed at 4:00am on Saturday (local time) with plans to return at 5:00pm on Monday.
The Ventura County Fire Department said on Twitter it responded to the fire around 3:30am (local time). A photo tweeted by the department shows a boat engulfed in flames.
It’s not clear how many people were on the boat, but the Coast Guard earlier said that more than 30 people were “in distress”.
The vessel Conception was operated by Santa Barbara-based Worldwide Diving Adventures, which says on its website it has been operating such expeditions since 1972.
It was outfitted with dozens of small berths for people to sleep in overnight.
The trip promised multiple opportunities to see colourful coral and a variety of marine life.