Officials said Tuesday 34 people are presumed dead after a boat packed with scuba divers caught fire near an island off the coast of Santa Barbara and they have called off search efforts for survivors.
Many of the 39 people aboard the 75-foot Conception were thought to be sleeping below deck when the fire broke out about 3:15 a.m. Monday. The vessel was anchored about 20 yards off Santa Cruz Island when the charter become engulfed in flames, said Mike Eliason, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. The victims have yet to be identified.
As of early Tuesday, authorities said 25 bodies had been located, nine were still missing and five were rescued. Of those who were recovered, 11 of the victims were females and nine were males, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a press conference Tuesday morning. He said four to six others have been located by divers but have not yet been recovered due to unsafe conditions around the boat.