Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP
- A boat carrying 33 passengers and six crew members on a scuba diving trip became fully engulfed in flames early Monday morning.
- Thirty passengers were sleeping below deck when the fire broke out. At least 25 bodies have been found, and nine more are still missing.
- The boat's captain and four crew members who were sleeping on the top deck made it to safety, but everyone else was trapped below.
- Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown called the incident "the worst-case scenario you could possibly have," because it happened at night in a remote area, while almost everyone was sleeping.
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Police called the boat fire off the coast of California that killed at least 25 people on Monday a "worst-case scenario," noting that it happened at night in a remote area, while almost everyone was sleeping.
The 75-foot boat called the Conception was carrying 33 passengers and six crew members on a recreational scuba diving trip when it became fully engulfed in flames early Monday morning.
Thirty passengers were sleeping below deck when the fire broke out. At least 25 bodies have been found, and nine more are still missing. The Conception's captain and four crew members who were sleeping on the top deck jumped to safety on a dinghy, the Associated Press reported.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown called the incident "the worst-case scenario you could possibly have."
"You have a vessel that's on the open sea in the middle of the night — 3: 30 in the morning — fire is the scourge of any ship, and the vessel … if not everybody, most everybody was asleep at this time," he said at a press conference on Monday.
He added: "The majority of the people were the passengers on the ship, and the sleeping compartment was on the bottom deck of the ship, so they would have been sound asleep when this fire started. So you can imagine of all scenarios, to be in a remote location, have a fire that occurs, have limited if any fire fighting capabilities that could address that, and then to all the sudden have a fire that spread very very rapidly, you couldn't ask for a worse situation."
The boat had departed Santa Barbara's Channel Islands Harbor on Saturday for a Labor Day weekend scuba-diving trip.
The fire broke out just before 3:30 a.m. on Sunday while the boat was anchored off Santa Cruz Island, about 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
The room passengers were sleeping in was equipped with an escape hatch leading to the deck, reported the LA Times. It's unclear, though, if smoke or fire prevented the passengers from making their way to it.
A Coast Guard official later said the boat was in "full compliance" of safety regulations.
The crew called for help just after the fire started, and Ventura County firefighters reached the scene within about 15 minutes, according to CNN, but had difficulty managing the fire.
"The fire was so intense, even after it was put out we were not able to embark on the vessel and look for survivors," US Coast Guard Senior Chief Aaron Bemis told CNN.
By 7:20 a.m. the ship began to sink. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll told the Associated Press that the boat sank in about 60 feet of water, and several bodies have not been recovered due to unsafe conditions under the boat.
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