Santa Cruz Boat Fire Leaves 34 Missing Off California Coast

Just under four hours ago today, firefighters responded to a dive boat fire off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, west of Los Angeles. The boat, called The Conception, sailed out from Santa Barbara on Saturday with 39 people onboard for a diving excursion. It caught fire early this morning. The diving tour was planned by Truth Aquatics, who advertised their Labor Day trip as a "unique opportunity to explore the pinnacles of San Miguel Island." It was supposed to return at 5 PM PST tonight.

Within an hour of fire departments responding to the call, reporters were told that the diving boat had "burned down to the water line," confirming that it had been completely destroyed. It finally sank when it was only 20 yards from the shore, falling into 64 feet of water as crews tried to extinguish the fire, the Coast Guard said in a statement. Aid was provided by the Coast guard, the Santa Barbara Fire Department, and the Ventura County Fire Department.

Five Survivors Rescued—The Rest Are Missing

Five crew members of The Conception were rescued, two of them with leg injuries; a Ventura County official confirmed there have been multiple fatalities. Thirty-four people are still unaccounted for, but crews will be conducting shoreline searches, according to the Coast Guard. Truth Aquatics has not provided comment as of this morning, but Captain Rochester of the Coast Guard said the vessel was in "full compliance."

Of the 39 people on board, 34 of them were below deck sleeping. The five survivors were all above deck and leapt from the ship when it caught fire after making a mayday call. Rescue authorities reported only receiving a mayday call about the ship being on fire, but no other messages.

The NTSB is sending a team of investigators to California to cover the incident, led by Board Member Jennifer Homendy.

Our hearts go out to the people and families involved in this horrible incident. We hope that fire crews are able to find more survivors through their rescue efforts.

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