WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The U.S. Coast Guard announced Monday that 25 bodies have been found after a boat was destroyed by fire anchored off an island in Southern California.
- Authorities said they will continue to search for the nine others still missing.
- The only people who survived the fire are all crew members who jumped into an inflatable lifeboat and were rescued by a nearby vessel.
The US Coast Guard said late Monday that 25 bodies have been found after a boat caught on fire off the coast of California, according to reports.
Nine people remain missing while five crew members had survived after they jumped into an inflatable lifeboat and was rescued by a Good Samaritan vessel called The Grape Escape.
The Conception, a commercial diving boat, was anchored meters off Santa Cruz Island when the fire started in the early hours of Monday. The boat was submerged while the cause of the fire was not yet determined.
Speaking at a news conference, Sheriff Bill Brown confirmed 39 people were on board the Conception when the fire started.
On Monday, 3:30 local time, the Coast Guard services overheard a mayday call, saying that the boat was engulfed in flames. Some of the passengers could have been trapped below deck, according to reports.
Bob Hansen, the owner of the Grape Escape, told the New York Times that the Conception was engulfed in flames, “from stem to stern”.
“I could see the fire coming through holes on the side of the boat. There were these explosions every few beats. You can’t prepare yourself for that,” Hansen said.
Sheriff Brown suggested that oxygen or propane tanks could have exploded during the fire, but there was no indication this sparked the blaze.
“Nothing in the [mayday] broadcast from the vessel… indicated there was an initial explosion,” Brown said.
Sheriff Brown said the fire was “probably the worst-case scenario you could possibly have” on a vessel, as it was in open water at night with most people asleep below decks.
“Fire is the scourge of any ship,” he added. “Of all scenarios… you couldn’t ask for a worse situation.”
The Conception was used for chartered trips in the Channel Islands National Park and was already on the final day of a three-day scuba diving trip for the Labor Day weekend.