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34 dead after diving boat catches fire in California: U.S. Coast Guard

Sheriff says fatal boat fire was ‘worst case scenario’
A sheriff in California said Monday that the fatal boat fire was the "worst case scenario" because of where most of the people on the boat were and where the fire was on the boat.

34 people are believed dead after a commercial diving boat in California caught on fire early Monday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The remains of 20 people have been recovered so far, with officials saying that they believed that none of the 14 other victims classified as missing survived.

WATCH: Sheriff outlines timeline of fatal diving boat fire that killed at least eight people

Sheriff outlines timeline of fatal diving boat fire that killed at least eight people
Sheriff outlines timeline of fatal diving boat fire that killed at least eight people

Bodies were found after a fire swept through the boat, though the cause of the blaze has not yet been explained.

According to a news release, at around 3:15 a.m. local time, the coast guard received a mayday call from a 75-foot commercial diving vessel engulfed in flames near Santa Cruz Island.

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Audio of the mayday call has been posted to YouTube.

“I can’t breathe,” the caller can be heard saying on the audio.

The call was not fully understandable, but officials managed to glean enough information to tell them that the boat was already fully on fire, and to send personnel to check the scene, Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney said.

The coast guard says 38 people were aboard the boat.

“Crews from the Coast Guard, Santa Barbara Fire Department, Ventura County Fire Department and Vessel Assist responded,” the release says.

WATCH: Search underway after diving boat fire in California

Search underway after diving boat fire in California
Search underway after diving boat fire in California

READ MORE: At least 40 dead after fire breaks out on plane in Russia: officials

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According to the coast guard, fire department crews were fighting the fire when the vessel sank 20 yards off shore in 19.5 metres of water.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll told the Associated Press that five crew members sleeping on the top deck of the commercial scuba diving vessel had been rescued.

WATCH: Five rescued, 34 missing in California boat fire: U.S. Coast Guard

Five rescued, 34 missing in California boat fire: U.S. Coast Guard
Five rescued, 34 missing in California boat fire: U.S. Coast Guard

Of the five persons rescued near the coast of Santa Barbara, at least one had suffered minor injuries, the Coast Guard said.

Officials had initially said 33 people were missing, before issuing a correction saying 34 people aboard the vessel are unaccounted for.

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Ventura County Fire Captain Brian McGrath told The Associated Press that they have confirmed “some fatalities,” however, he would not provide a specific number.

Santa Barbara County Fire Department public information officer Mike Eliason told CNN that the boat involved in the incident is a popular overnight dive and fishing boat.

“We’re still holding hope that someone may have swam to shore. When they anchor overnight they’re pretty close to shore,” he told CNN.

READ MORE: Fire officials investigating after $350K boat goes up in flames in Rockport

“We have to hope, but we plan for worst-case scenario.”

The Coast Guard says a search and rescue operation is still underway.

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According to U.S. Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester, crews are still in the “response phase.”

“Presently the Coast Guard has full efforts in a response posture right now,” she told reporters Monday afternoon. “Right now they’re conducting shoreline searches for any available survivors.”

In a tweet posted Monday afternoon, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it was sending a “go-team” to the scene to investigate.

Santa Cruz Island is located off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Here’s a photo that the U.S. Coast Guard released showing efforts to fight the fire:

Photo shows efforts to fight the fire aboard the diving vessel Conception near Santa Cruz Island in California.
Photo shows efforts to fight the fire aboard the diving vessel Conception near Santa Cruz Island in California. U.S. Coast Guard

-With files from the Associated Press

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