The Latest: Divers use hands to search for missing from boat

Authorities say divers are working in pairs at the site where a diving boat sank near a Southern California island after it was engulfed in flames.

Commander Jay Donovan of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that the divers from multiple law enforcement agencies are using their hands because of limited visibility and search in grids as they look for nine people who are still missing. Officials have confirmed that 25 people died.

There were 39 people aboard the Conception when it caught fire before dawn Monday as recreational scuba divers slept in bunks below deck.

Five of the boat’s six crew members escaped and used a dinghy to get to a nearby boat.

The dozens of passengers aboard the dive boat gutted by fire off the Southern California included a 41-year-old marine biologist with years of diving experience.

Kristy Finstad has been identified by her brother Brett Harmeling of Houston as among those aboard the vessel Conception when it was engulfed in flames early Monday off Santa Cruz Island.

Harmeling says in a Facebook post that his sister was leading the dive trip and he asks for prayers.

Harmeling described his sister to reporters as extremely strong-willed and adventurous.

Authorities say five crew members were rescued and 25 deaths have been confirmed so far, but no identities have been made public.

Authorities say dive teams and other search crews have continued to search through the night for people still missing following a dive boat fire off Southern California’s coast that killed dozens sleeping below deck.

Santa Barbara City Fire Department spokeswoman Amber Anderson says Tuesday that fog and low clouds are not expected to limit the search crews in their efforts.

She says several families have visited an assistance center set up for relatives of people who were aboard the boat.