Multiple Dead, 34 Missing After After Fire Blazes Through Boat Near Santa Cruz Island

Some passengers have died, and at least 34 are still missing after a fire ripped through a dive boat Monday morning near Santa Cruz Island, according to authorities.

Officials say the fire broke out on the 75-foot ‘Conception’ boat, owned by Truth Aquatics, a little after 3:00 a.m. PST, while it was anchored overnight.

Multiple agencies responded to the scene, where the five crew members who jumped overboard were rescued, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. One of the rescued individuals reportedly suffered a broken leg, and one of the five people was said to be the captain of the boat.

“There are fatalities, but I can’t give you a number because the Coast Guard is still searching the water,” said Centura County Fire Capt. Brian McGrath. The ongoing search-and-rescue operation includes efforts by helicopters, small boats and a patrol cutter.

The U.S. Coast Guard said they launched a massive rescue operation after getting a report that more than 30 people were “in distress.”  Officials later confirmed the ship sunk after taking on water.

Coast Guard Senior Chief Aaron Bemis told CNN that 34 people were below decks in the “berthing” area of the boat, where passengers sleep.

The five crew members that were able to escape before the Coast Guard arrived, were on the top deck in the main cabin, according to Bemis. “They were not trapped by the fire,” he said.

A calendar of events posted on the boat owner’s website shows that the event was for a three-day Labor Day weekend trip that cost $665 and was being run by Worldwide Diving Adventures.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

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