September 02, 2019

Santa Cruz boat fire: eight confirmed dead as rescue teams struggle to reach 26 others trapped below deck
Eight people have been confirmed dead and 26 others remain missing after a scuba diving boat caught fire in the middle of the night and sunk off the coast of California. Five crew members who were already awake when the blaze begun around 3am were able to escape but the other passengers were trapped in the sleeping quarters below deck.  Firemen in helicopters, small boats and a US Coast Guard cutter spent hours tackling the blaze and searching for survivors after being alerted in a mayday call. However the blaze was so intense that it kept relighting after appearing to have been extinguished, perhaps due to the fuel on board.  Search and rescue teams were scouring the surrounding waters yesterday but hope was fading of finding survivors. A spokesman for the county said there had been "numerous fatalities". Images of the dive boat "Conception" - Five people were rescued and 34 more are missing after a fire broke out on a boat early Monday morning near Santa Cruz Island Credit: Universal News And Sport (Europe)  The commercial diving vessel, called the Conception, was 75-foot (23-meters) long. It had been anchored in Platt's Harbor, about 20 yards (18 meters) off the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island. It had been on a three-day cruise to the Channel Islands during Labor Day weekend. Monday was a bank holiday in America.  Details about the fire are still emerging and the cause is unknown. A mayday call was only made once the blaze was out of control.  Aaron Bemis, a US Coast Guard chief, told CNN that rescuers had been told there were 34 passengers in the sleeping quarters below who 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 look for survivors at this point," he said on Monday morning.  Fire fighters tackle the blaze on the ship near Santa Cruz Island Credit: VENTURA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX Monica Rochester, a US Coast Guard captain, said in a brief news conference that the vessel eventually sank in 64 feet of water, but its bow was still visible above the waterline. Asked if the crew tried to help others aboard, Ms Rochester said: "I don't have any additional information." The Conception was operated by Worldwide Diving Adventures, a respected Santa Barbara-based company that says on its website it has been taking divers on expeditions since 1972. Asked if the boat operator has a history of any violations, Ms Rochester said: "The vessel has been in full compliance." The Conception had departed at 4am on Saturday with plans to return at 5pm on Monday. It was outfitted with dozens of small berths for people to sleep in overnight. Bill Nash, a spokesman for Ventura County, told CNN that there were "numerous fatalities" but did not give a number. No passengers have yet been named.
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