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8 killed, 26 missing in California boat fire

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8 killed, 26 missing in California boat fire
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Los Angeles:  At least eight people were killed and 26 others reported missing after a commercial diving boat caught fire and capsized in the US state of California, authorities said.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown on Monday night updated reporters on the ongoing search-and-rescue operations after the Conception, a 75-foot diving boat, issued a mayday call near the Santa Cruz Island, reports Efe news reported.

"Four bodies have been recovered thus far as deceased, they have been transported to our coroner's bureau," Brown said, adding that they had been identified as two adult males and two women. 

"Rescue and recovery efforts on the scene have located an additional four victims on the ocean floor in close proximity to the vessel," according to Brown. 

Five people have been rescued alive and the remaining 26 were missing, he said.

The Coast Guard had said earlier that the crew of the Conception issued a mayday call at around 3.30 a.m. on Monday, to which emergency teams from the Coast Guard, Santa Barbara Fire Department, Ventura County Fire Department and Vessel Assist responded. 

Five members of the Conception's six-man crew, who were on deck when the flames broke out, jumped into the water and reached safely on another boat, the Grape Escape.

But the 33 passengers on the scuba-diving excursion were sleeping below deck at the moment the fire started, Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester of the Los Angeles-Long Beach sector told a press conference.

"Right now they're conducting shoreline searches for any available survivors," she said. "The crew was actually already awake and on the bridge and they jumped off."

The Conception sailed on Saturday from Santa Barbara and was scheduled to return on Monday evening, according to the company that owns and operates the boat, Truth Aquatics.

The Truth Aquatics website says that the Conception entered service in 1981.

The boat is equipped with sufficient life-jackets and rafts for 110 passengers, according to the website.

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