California: 34 dead or missing in dive boat fire

Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles says there were no Chinese citizens onboard

SANTA BARBARA, California-Divers have found a total of 25 bodies on Monday after a predawn fire sank a scuba diving vessel off a Southern California island, leaving nine people unaccounted for as the search continued, media reported.

Representatives for the Coast Guard’s division in Los Angeles and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office could not immediately be reached to confirm the report from The Associated Press, which cited the US Coast Guard.

Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown had earlier confirmed eight people had died after a fire broke out aboard the Conception, a 23-meter boat, at about 3:15 am on Monday while it was moored just off the shore of Santa Cruz Island. Dive teams were in the water trying to recover the additional victims’ bodies, Brown said.

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The Conception had embarked for California’s Channel Islands on Saturday morning with 39 people on board. Five crew members who were above deck on the bridge escaped the fire as passengers slept in the ship’s lower quarters. They jumped into the water and were rescued by a nearby fishing boat.

“This isn’t a day that we wanted to wake up on Labor Day and it’s a very tragic event,” Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester told a news conference earlier on Monday, saying the search would continue throughout the night.

The sunken vessel now lies upside down under more than 18 meters of water. Authorities were trying to determine the best way to recover it including the possibility of towing it to shore, Brown said.

The Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles confirmed with Xinhua News Agency that there was no report of Chinese citizens on the boat.

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