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25 Confirmed Dead in California Boat Fire

Search for survivors will continue overnight
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2019 2:22 AM CDT
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JJ Lambert, 38, and his fiancee, Jenna Marsala, 33, hang up a dive flag in remembrance of the victims of the Conception boat fire at a memorial site on Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, in Santa Barbara, Calif.   (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)
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(Newser) – At least 25 people have now been confirmed dead in a horrific fire on a diving boat off southern California early Monday. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll says the search will continue overnight for nine people still missing in one of the worst maritime disasters in the state's history, the AP reports. Kroll says five bodies that have been located have not been recovered because of unsafe conditions under the Conception, which sank in around 60 feet of water as fire crews were fighting the blaze. Authorities say the fire broke out around 3am while the boat was anchored off Santa Cruz Island. Five out of six crew members escaped and sought help from a nearby fishing boat, but the 33 passengers were below deck, with only one narrow staircase out. "You couldn't ask for a worse situation," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters Monday.

Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester said late Monday that the search for survivors would continue overnight, reports Reuters. "It’s a very tragic event and we will search all the way through the night, into the morning," she said. "But I think we should all be prepared to move into the worst outcome." Sen. Dianne Feinstein called for a full investigation, saying it was "inconceivable" that a fire on a boat could be so deadly "with all the safety regulations we have in place today," the Orange County Register reports. "We must know what fire-suppression systems and other emergency equipment are in place on these boats and whether they were in working order on the Conception," she said. "And we need to understand exactly how the crew was trained and, if they were awake and above-deck, why they were unable to alert or help rescue passengers." ("I can't breathe," one passenger said in a mayday call received from the ship.)

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