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34 Presumed Dead in California Boat Fire; Search Operations Suspended

Thirty-nine people including six crew members were aboard the vessel Conception when it caught fire early Monday morning while anchored off Santa Cruz Island. Five crew members jumped in the ocean and were rescued.

Associated Press

Updated:September 4, 2019, 7:58 AM IST
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34 Presumed Dead in California Boat Fire; Search Operations Suspended
Ventura County Fire Department personnel respond to a boat fire on a 75-foot (23-meter) vessel off Santa Cruz Island, California, U.S. September 2,. (Reuters Image)
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Santa Barbara: Thirty four people are presumed dead in the California dive boat fire and search operations have been suspended.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said on Tuesday that the bodies of 20 victims have been recovered and divers have seen between four and six others in the sunken wreckage. Brown says the recovered remains include 11 females and nine males and DNA will be used to identify them.

Thirty-nine people including six crew members were aboard the vessel Conception when it caught fire early Monday morning while anchored off Santa Cruz Island. Five crew members jumped in the ocean and were rescued.

Authorities say divers are working in pairs at the site where a diving boat sank near a Southern California island after it was engulfed in flames.

Commander Jay Donovan of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that the divers from multiple law enforcement agencies are using their hands because of limited visibility and search in grids as they look for nine people who are still missing. Officials have confirmed that 25 people died.

There were 39 people aboard the Conception when it caught fire before dawn Monday as recreational scuba divers slept in bunks below deck.

Five of the boat's six crew members escaped and used a dinghy to get to a nearby boat.

The dozens of passengers aboard the dive boat gutted by fire off the Southern California included a 41-year-old marine biologist with years of diving experience.

Kristy Finstad has been identified by her brother Brett Harmeling of Houston as among those aboard the vessel Conception when it was engulfed in flames early Monday off Santa Cruz Island.

Harmeling says in a Facebook post that his sister was leading the dive trip and he asks for prayers. HE described his sister to the Los Angeles Times as extremely strong-willed and adventurous.

There were 39 people aboard the Conception, including six crew members.

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