By Robert Gearty | Fox News
At least 34 people were feared dead after a boat caught fire off Santa Cruz Island, California, early Monday morning, officials have confirmed.
Fox affiliate KTTV earlier confirmed there were nearly three dozen fatalities, but Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr Matthew Kroll told Fox News the 34 people were unaccounted for from a commercial diving ship. The captain of the boat was helping with the rescue. Four other people were rescued. Lt. Cmdr Kroll later confirmed the ship sunk near the north shore of Santa Cruz Island after taking on water.
Earlier, the U.S. Coast Guard tweeted that it was coordinating a large rescue effort Monday in response to the fire.
“The Coast Guard has launched multiple rescue assets along with assets from local agencies to assist more than 30 people in distress on a 75ft boat near Santa Cruz Island,” Coast Guard LA said in a tweet shortly before 5 a.m. local time.
Firefighters with the Ventura County Fire Department responded around 3:28 a.m., according to a spokesperson.
The Coast Guard responded with two helicopters, two 45-foot Swift boats and an 87-foot cutter.
Officer Nathan Alldredge of the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol told Fox News that his office responded to a mutual aid call around 4 a.m. local time.
Alldredge said the call was for the diving boat Conception which is based in Santa Barbara Harbor. The officer said the board is a fully- equipped 75-foot commercial diving boat that takes out recreational scuba divers and is able to spend multiple days out at sea.
KKFX-TV reported that Conception’s owner Glen Fritzler met with Coast Guard officials at the Channel Islands Harbor station Monday morning.
Fritzler’s Truth Aquatics website says the Conception has bunk space for 46 people and “rafts and jackets for 110 passengers.”