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8 dead, 26 missing as dive boat sinks in flames off California

Eight people were dead and more than two dozen missing and feared deceased Monday after a scuba diving boat caught fire and sank off the California coast, with passengers trapped below deck by the roaring blaze.



Fire crews in helicopters, small boats and a Coast Guard cutter battled the fierce pre-dawn fire on the 75-foot (23-meter) Conception, which had been on a diving excursion around Santa Cruz Island, just west of Santa Barbara in southern California.

But the blaze and intense heat prevented them from breaching the vessel’s hull to search for survivors before the craft sank, the Coast Guard said. A dense fog further complicated rescue efforts.
Five Conception crew members were awake and jumped into the water when flames burst out around 3:15 am (1015 GMT), Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester said, putting the total number of people aboard the boat at 39.



The five were rescued by people on a pleasure craft called the Grape Escape, Rochester said.
Shirley Hansen, who was on the Grape Escape with her husband Bob, told the Los Angeles Times they were asleep when they heard pounding on the side of their fishing boat.

The crew, some only in underwear and two with leg injuries, had retrieved a dinghy and paddled 200 yards to the Hansens’ boat.

Shirley Hansen said the men were distraught one had a girlfriend below-deck on the Conception and two of the men paddled back to look for survivors, but found none.
(Theguardian)



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