At least eight people were killed at the inferno on the diver's boat The Conception, says Santa Barbara sheriff. The lives of another 26 others are feared.

Four bodies were salvaged in the ship, which is now 18 meters deep on the ocean floor. Divers later found four more bodies in the vicinity of the wreck. The authorities take into account many more deaths. Possibly all 34 passengers who were sleeping below deck were killed.

The 23-meter long boat got into trouble at Santa Cruz Island. It is not known how the vessel could catch fire. The people on board were on a three-day diving trip and the vast majority of them slept in the cabin when the fire broke out.

Five crew members who were already awake and on the upper deck were able to jump into the water on time, after which they were rescued by a passing pleasure craft. One of them has sustained minor injuries. When the emergency services received a report around three in the morning (local time), the ship was already completely on fire.

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