The Latest: Diver says boat that burned was 1 of safest

In this photo provided by the Ventura County Fire Department, VCFD firefighters respond to a boat fire off the coast of southern California, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. The U.S. Coast Guard said it has launched several boats to help over two dozen people "in distress" off the coast of southern California. (Ventura County Fire Department via AP)

A veteran scuba diver who has frequently gone on expeditions on the dive boat where a deadly fire broke out Monday says it and others in its operator's fleet are among the safest and best maintained he's seen

LOS ANGELES — The Latest on a dive boat on fire off the coast of California (all times local):

2:05 p.m.

A scuba diver who has frequently gone on expeditions on the boat where a deadly fire broke out Monday says it and others in its operator's fleet are among the safest and best maintained he's seen.

Four people died and 29 are missing after flames erupted on the Conception, which later sank anchored just off Santa Cruz Island. Five crew members who were on the boat's top deck managed to escape.

Dave Reid, who runs an underwater camera business with his wife, said the boat's operator, Truth Aquatics, has immaculate boats and its crew is top notch.

But Reid, who is familiar with the boat's configuration, notes all divers sleep on the lowest level.

He says divers are not locked into that level but if a fire erupted above them it would be difficult for any to escape through a narrow stairway.

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1:15 p.m.

The boat with 33 passengers aboard that burned while anchored close to shore of one of Southern California's Channel Islands had no recent safety violations.

The Santa Barbara-based Conception was carrying recreational scuba divers and caught fire early Monday. Five crew members jumped to safety but all 33 passengers were missing. Four bodies were later recovered and the search for others continued Monday afternoon.

Coast Guard records show inspections conducted last February and in August 2018 found no deficiencies. Earlier inspections found some safety violations related to fire safety.

A 2016 inspection resulted in owners replacing the heat detector in the galley and one in 2014 cited a leaky fire hose.

Records show all safety violations from the last five years were quickly addressed by the boat's owners.

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11 a.m.

The Coast Guard says four bodies have been recovered near a dive boat that caught fire off the California coast with dozens of people aboard.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll says the bodies recovered Monday morning had injuries consistent with drowning.

Searchers are continuing to look for 29 other people who were aboard the vessel Conception, which burned while anchored off Santa Cruz Island.

Five crew members were awake when the fire broke out and were able to jump into the water. They were rescued by a passing pleasure craft.

Authorities have given fluctuating information about the number of people aboard the vessel. The Coast Guard now says a sixth crewmember who was on the manifest was actually not aboard.

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9:35 a.m.

A fire official says there are confirmed fatalities as rescue crews continue their search after a boat caught fire off the coast of Southern California.

Ventura County Fire Capt. Brian McGrath tells The Associated Press that they have confirmed "some fatalities" after Monday morning's fire near Santa Cruz Island. He would not provide a specific number.

Coast Guard officials said five crew members were awake when the fire broke out aboard the 75-foot (23-meter) commercial diving vessel and were able to jump into the water. Others are believed to have been asleep below deck.

The Coast Guard says a search and rescue operation is still underway.

The Coast Guard statement says fire department crews were fighting the flames when the vessel sank 20 yards (18 meters) off shore.

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9:15 a.m.

The Coast Guard says 34 people are missing after a fire broke out aboard a dive boat off the coast of Southern California.

Earlier, authorities said they were searching 33.

Five people were rescued and Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll told The Associated Press the Coast Guard was searching for others who may have been able to escape the fire by jumping from the boat. A statement by the agency says they were evacuated aboard a passing good Samaritan pleasure craft. Two of the crew suffered minor injuries.

The Coast Guard statement says fire department crews were fighting the flames when the vessel sank 20 yards (18 meters) off shore in 64 feet (19.5 meters) of water. A portion of the bow is sticking out of the water.

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8:36 a.m.

The Coast Guard says 33 people are missing after a fire broke out aboard a dive boat off the coast of Southern California.

Earlier, authorities said they were searching for 34.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll of the U.S. Coast Guard said five crewmembers sleeping on the top deck of the 75-foot (20-meter) commercial scuba diving vessel were rescued. A statement by the agency says they were evacuated aboard a passing good Samaritan pleasure craft. One of the crew suffered minor injuries.

The Coast Guard statement says fire department crews were fighting the flames when the vessel sank 20 yards (18 meters) off shore in 64 feet (19.5 meters) of water. A portion of the bow is sticking out of the water.

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8:35 a.m.

The dive boat where a fire broke out before dawn Monday morning was on a Labor Day weekend cruise taking divers to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.

The vessel Conception was operated by Santa Barbara-based Worldwide Diving Adventures, which says on its website it has been operating such expeditions since 1972.

This weekend trip had departed at 4 a.m. Saturday with plans to return at 5 p.m. Monday.

It was outfitted with dozens of small berths for people to sleep in overnight.

The trip promised multiple opportunities to see colorful coral and a variety of marine life.

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Some people have died and rescuers were searching for 34 more Monday morning after a fire broke out aboard a dive boat off the Southern California Coast.

Capt. Brian McGrath of the Ventura County Fire Department confirmed some deaths to The Daily Beast but said he could not give an exact number.

Five crewmembers sleeping on the top deck of the 75-foot (20-meter) commercial scuba diving vessel were rescued, according to Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll of the U.S. Coast Guard. But he said 34 passengers who were sleeping below deck have not been accounted for.

One of the crew suffered minor injuries.

The Coast Guard has helicopters, small boats and a patrol cutter in the area for a search-and-rescue operation off of Santa Cruz Island, about 90 miles (140 kilometers) from Los Angeles.

The Ventura County Fire Department said on Twitter that it responded to the fire around 3:30 a.m.

It's not clear how many people were on the boat, but the Coast Guard earlier said that more than 30 people were "in distress."

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