The bodies of eight people have been recovered as authorities fear at least 26 people remain missing after a fire engulfed a dive-boat off the Southern California coast early Monday. Authorities are saying it is likely they may not find any more survivors and the the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s coroner office prepared for a mass casualty incident, reports the Los Angeles Times. “This isn’t a day we wanted to wake up to for Labor Day and it’s a very tragic event,” said Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester. “I think we should all be prepared to move into the worst outcome.”
Four victims had been found early in the search and then four others were found on the ocean floor. Dive teams are working to recover the bodies. The 75-foot boat caught fire while it was anchored off Santa Cruz and most of the passengers are believed to have been sleeping below deck when the fire began and may have been trapped. Some though are still holding out hope. “We still are hoping that there could still be some survivors,” California Rep. Julia Brownley said.
The boat, identified as the Conception, is thought to have been carrying 39 people, including five crew members, when it caught fire. The crew members were already awake when the fire broke out and managed to jump off and go to a nearby fishing boat. The Conception was operated by Truth Aquatics in Santa Barbara and was in full compliance with safety and licensing standards, Rochester said.
When fire department officials responded to a distress call at around 3:15 a.m. the boat was already fully engulfed in flames. “The report we got was they were trapped by the fire. The fire was so intense that even after it was put out, we’re not able to actually embark the vessel and, you know, look for survivors at this point. It’s still ongoing,” Coast Guard Senior Chief Aaron Bemis told CNN. The boat sank 20 yards off shore in 64 feet of water while firefighters were still battling the flames.
*This is a breaking news story and has been updated with new information since it was first published.
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