Sept. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday said 33 passengers and one crew member on a charter boat that caught fire off the Southern California coast are presumed dead.
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester announced the Coast Guard suspended its search efforts, stating no additional signs of distress or debris had been witnessed.
Five crew members jumped overboard to escape the fire and were rescued by a passing boat. The 33 passengers on board were below deck when the Conception caught fire about 3:15 a.m. Monday off the coast of Ventura County, Calif. The passengers were asleep when the fire began.
A boat fire in the middle of the night with passengers trapped at the bottom is a difficult task for any rescuer, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.
"This is probably the worst-case scenario you could possibly have," he said. "Fire is the scourge of any ship."
Helicopters and several boats kept up the search for survivors Monday night. The 75-foot ship sank in 64 feet of water, leaving the bow sticking up above the water. The scuba ship was taking passengers on a Labor Day weekend dive trip that started Saturday.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate the cause.
Brown said investigators don't have a list of everyone on board so authorities will have to use DNA to identify remains. Rescuers spent Monday night looking for the nine missing.
The Conception is owned by Truth Aquatics and was booked by a group called Worldwide Diving Adventures.