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8 dead, 26 unaccounted for in California boat fire

By Clyde Hughes & Darryl Coote
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8 dead, 26 unaccounted for in California boat fire
Authorities said the search for the missing 26 people will continue through Monday night. Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office/Twitter

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Eight people were dead and 26 others remained unaccounted for following a fire on a boat that started early Monday off Santa Cruz Island.

Four bodies were recovered during the initial response to the fire while four additional bodies found on the ocean floor had yet to be retrieved, Santa Barbara County said in a press release.

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Five crew members were rescued from the 75-foot commercial diving boat, named Conception, by a "good Samaritan pleasure craft," the Coast Gaurd said.

Only one of them sustained minor injuries, it said via Twitter.

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Conception sank at around 7:20 a.m. about 20 yards offshore in 64 feet of water as crews from several agencies fought to put out the flames.

Search efforts will continue throughout the night and an investigation into what started the fire was ongoing.

A 3,000-foot temporary flight restriction and a one-mile safety zone have been established around the location of the ship as search and rescue efforts continue, the Coast Guard said.

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"What a heartbreaking day," the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said via Twitter while announcing the death toll and the number of people still missing.

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Emergency personnel received a mayday report about 3:30 a.m. Pacific time of the fire on the commercial diving boat, north of Santa Cruz, about 30 miles west of Ventura.

The agency said it had launched multiple rescue assets to the scene including a Jayhawk helicopter and the USCG Narwhal patrol boat.

The Ventura County Fire Department posted photos of the boat fire and said it provided a dive boat to assist with the rescue. Foggy conditions slowed rescue efforts. Most of the passengers on the boat may have been sleeping below deck when the fire broke out, trapping them, authorities said.

Conception is based out of Santa Barbara Harbor, authorities said.

According to Truth Aquatics, which hosts boat charters, Conception was on a three-day cruise from Saturday and was to return Monday afternoon, Fox 5 San Diego reported.

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