Coast Guard officials said late Monday that the bodies of at least 15 people have been found after a 75-foot commercial diving boat erupted in flames near the shoreline of Santa Cruz Island, Calif.
Many aboard the vessel Conception were thought to be sleeping below deck when the fire broke out in the predawn hours. Authorities continued their search Monday for possible survivors as the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s coroner office prepared for a mass casualty incident.
“This isn’t a day we wanted to wake up to for Labor Day and it’s a very tragic event,” said Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester. “I think we should all be prepared to move into the worst outcome.”
Five crew members were already awake when the fire erupted and jumped off the boat, which was 20 yards off shore of the north side of Santa Cruz Island near the Ventura County coast, Rochester said. One crew member remains unaccounted for.