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Coast Guard cautions to prepare for ‘the worst outcome’

Tragedy struck off the California coast when a boat fire broke out early Monday, leaving at least 25 dead with nine others still missing.

The 75-foot Conception was taking 33 passengers on a three-day excursion to the Channel Islands National Park in the Pacific Ocean.

A fire occurred onboard around 3 a.m. in Platt’s Harbor off Santa Cruz Island.

Rescue efforts are still underway as the Coast Guard will search for the nine unaccounted for people throughout the night.

It’s not known when the boat will be able to be searched for anyone else.

“It’s upside down in relatively shallow water with receding tides that are moving it around,” said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

“We should all be prepared to move into the worst outcome,” Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester warned during a news conference.

The Coast Guard received a Mayday call at 3:15 a.m. of an “engulfed 75-foot commercial diving vessel” that had 38 people aboard.

A nightmare with no way out

All five crew members on board escaped by jumping into an inflatable boat. They were able to take refuge on a nearby vessel called The Grape Escape.

“The crew was actually already awake and on the bridge and they jumped off,” Rochester said. “I don’t have any additional information.”

Earlier reports stated that six crew members had been on board at the time of the fire.

There were actually only five. The Coast Guard said a sixth crew member was on the manifest but wasn’t on board.

It’s believed the passengers were all asleep below deck when the fire started.

“You have a vessel in the open sea that is in the middle of the night,” said Sherriff Brown. “The sleeping compartment was on the bottom deck of the ship. They would have been sound asleep when this fire started.”

“You couldn’t have asked for a worse situation.”

The cause of the fire remains unclear.

“This isn’t a day we wanted to wake up to for Labor Day and it’s a very tragic event,” said Rochester.

The following is an audio recording of the Coast Guard response to the distress call:

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