At least 25 people died in the fatal fire on the diver's boat The Conception, according to the Santa Barbara Coast Guard in the US state of California. The lives of another nine are feared.
Four bodies were salvaged in the ship that is now 18 meters deep on the ocean floor. Coast guard divers later found the other bodies in the vicinity of the wreck.
The identity of the victims will have to be traced through DNA testing.
The authorities take into account many more deaths and the underwater search along the coast continues. Possibly all 34 passengers who were sleeping below deck were killed.
Not known how the vessel could catch fire
The 23 meter long boat got into trouble at Santa Cruz Island. It is not known how the vessel could catch fire. The passengers were on a three-day diving trip and by far the majority 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 3 a.m. (local time), the ship was already completely on fire.
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