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'Numerous fatalities' reported in boat fire off coast of Southern California; people still missing

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Posted at 9:14 AM, Sep 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-02 22:55:42-04

Multiple agencies, including the United States Coast Guard, are conducting a rescue involving dozens of people trapped on a 75-foot boat that caught fire off the coast of Southern California.

As of late Monday evening, eight fatalities have been confirmed and 26 remained missing.

"It's a large boat, and we know we have numerous fatalities. I don't have an exact number," Nash said.

Thirty-four people are confirmed to be missing, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Department PIO Mike Eliason.

“They are unaccounted for, but it's very foggy out there,” he said.

Those who went missing were below deck, sleeping, according to Captain Monica Rochester, US Coast Guard Los Angeles Long Beach Sector Commander.

The five who were rescued were crew members who were awake above deck and jumped into the water.

"Fire department crews were fighting the fire when the vessel sank 20 yards offshore in 64 feet of water," said Rochester in a press conference Monday morning. "Five people were evacuated aboard a Good Samaritan pleasure craft known as the Grape Escape. Currently, 34 people aboard the vessel are unaccounted for."

Crews responded to the fire around 3:28 a.m. local time.

The diving boat, called Conception, left Saturday for a three-day diving trip. It was scheduled to return later Monday, according to the company website.

Coast Guard Senior Chief Aaron Bemis told CNN the fire on the boat keeps re-flashing, hampering efforts to board the boat and look for survivors.

"It's a 75-foot commercial dive vessel that reportedly had 39 people on board. The five crew members able to disembark because they were in the main cabin. The 34 passengers were below decks," Bemis told the news outlet.

The Ventura County Fire Department tweeted photos of the diving boat engulfed in flames.

This is a developing story and it’ll be updated as more information becomes available.