A firefighter works at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Channel Islands in Oxnard, California, the United States, on Sept. 2, 2019. A total of 34 people are unaccounted for and five crew members were rescued after a dive boat caught fire off Santa Cruz Island in Southern California early Monday morning, according to a press conference at the Coast Guard Station Channel Islands in Oxnard, California. (Xinhua/Li Ying)
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- A total of 34 people are unaccounted for and five crew members were rescued after a dive boat caught fire off Santa Cruz Island in Southern California early Monday morning, according to a press conference at the Coast Guard Station Chanel Islands in Oxnard, California.
Captain Monica Rochester, USCG Los Angeles-Long Beach sector commander, told reporters Monday morning that 39 people were on board the 75-foot dive boat, named Conception, when a fire engulfed it in the pre-dawn hours.
The 34 people who are still missing were below deck, sleeping, she said.
Five crew members on board were awake on the deck when the fire broke out, and they jumped into the water, Rochester said. They were rescued by a Good Samaritan boat called The Grape Escape.
Ventura County Fire Department responded to the fire at approximately 3:28 a.m. local time (1028 GMT), the fire department tweeted.
Rochester said they are still in a response phase, conducting shoreline searches for any possible survivor.
The vessel sank about 20-yards off the coast in 54-feet of water. A portion of the bow is still sticking out of the water.
The cause of the blaze is not clear. Search and rescue efforts are still underway.
The boat set out from Santa Barbara on Saturday for a diving excursion, and was set to return to shore Monday at 5 p.m. local time, according to the website for the diving company, Truth Aquatics.
Rochester said the vessel was "in full compliance."
"We are working deliberately with the vessel owner/operator, who is with us at the time working on a plan to conduct further assistance for his vessel," she said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a go-team to California to investigate the dive boat fire, the agency tweeted.
In a phone interview with Xinhua, Lieutenant Erik Rainey of Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office said they are handling "death investigation" right now.