Thirty people are missing and feared dead — and four bodies were discovered — following a massive boat fire off the coast of Ventura County, California, Monday morning, officials said.
The diving boat Conception sent out a distress signal around 3:30 a.m. Monday morning, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. It was in the middle of a three-day trip.
The 75ft vessel was carrying 39 people when the blaze began, reported Fox 5.
In a recording of the dispatch call made to the US Coast Guard, the boat’s captain can be heard saying “I can’t breathe.”
The US Coast Guard was able to rescue five crew members but an additional 30 people are still missing — all of whom were reportedly sleeping in the boat’s hull — according to CNN.
On Monday afternoon the Coast Guard told Fox 11 it had recovered four bodies, but the fate of the remaining 30 passengers was unknown.
Shirley and Bob Hansen awoke at 3:30 a.m. to the sounds of Conception crew members pounding on the side of their boat, the Grape Escape. The crew, they told the LA Times, had paddled to their nearby boat on a rescue dinghy.
The Hansens offered the crew members blankets and clothes — some had escaped in only their underwear — and then two crew members paddled back to the Conception to look for survivors, but failed to find anyone.
Santa Barbara County Fire Department PIO Mike Eliason told CNN he hopes some passengers swam to shore.
“When they anchor overnight they’re pretty close to shore,” he said. “We have to hope, but we plan for a worst-case scenario.” Eliason noted that fog in the area made rescue efforts difficult.
“We’re gearing up resources to be able to handle the potential for a lot of fatalities off of this boat,” Erik Raney, a public information officer with the coroner’s office, told the LA Times.
According to Worldwide Diving Adventures, which operates the Conception, the boat was scheduled to anchor off the coast of the San Miguel Islands, located around 55 miles off the coast of Ventura. The San Miguel Islands are the western-most islands in the Channel Islands National Park.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Credits: Business Insider