At least eight people are dead and 26 are missing after a fire broke out aboard a 75-foot commercial diving boat off the coast of California’s Santa Cruz Island early Monday morning.

Thirty-nine people were on board the now-sunken boat when the crew contacted the U.S. Coast Guard for help around 3:30 a.m., Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters later Monday afternoon.

As of 4 p.m. local time, just five people ― all crew members ― had been found and rescued. Many of the passengers aboard the boat, which had taken divers out on Saturday and planned to return Tuesday, were asleep and below deck.

“You couldn’t ask for a worse situation,” Brown said of the boat’s remote location and fire’s early morning start time.

Flowers are fixed to the railing at Truth Aquatics as a search continues for those missing in a pre-dawn fire that sank a commercial diving boat off a Southern California island near Santa Barbara, California.

“We’re doing everything we can to see if anybody could have survived this,” he continued, noting that the search around the boat and nearby coastline was still underway.

The first four bodies recovered Monday morning won’t be identified until the coroner’s office performs a DNA test, Brown said, but confirmed that the first four victims were two adult men and two adult women. The four additional bodies discovered later on Monday will remain on the ocean floor until it’s safe for rescue divers to retrieve them.

News of the disaster first broke early Monday morning when Ventura County fire officials tweeted that they were responding to a fire aboard a dive boat southwest of Oxnard. Coast Guard officials said then that they had rescued the five crew members on board and found the first four bodies.

The boat began to sink while firefighters responded to the fire, according to the Coast Guard.

A representative for Truth Aquatics, which operates the boat, would not comment, saying he was awaiting word from officials.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.



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