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(CNN) - 20 bodies have been recovered from the fatal fire of a boat near Santa Cruz Island, California, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.
Four bodies were initially recovered before Monday's press conference, Brown said, and 16 additional bodies were recovered Monday night.
With the five survivors, that represents 25 people and 14 people are still missing, according to Brown.
LOOK: Fire on a ship with dozens of people on board the shores of southern California
The fateful journey of Conception
Thirty-three people signed up to spend what promised to be a glorious Labor Day weekend aboard the Conception, a 75-foot boat that offered a diver's dream: unlimited diving among the colorful underwater marine life, with meals Gourmet served between dives.
But in the last part of the three-day trip, the ship caught fire in front of the Santa Cruz Island of California. At least 20 people died, said the Santa Barbara County Sheriff.
"This is probably the worst scenario you can have," Brown said at a press conference. “You have a boat that is in the open sea, that is in the middle of the night. I mean, it's 3:30 in the morning. ”
Of the 39 people on board, 33 passengers and six crew members, only five people were found alive. The five survivors are all crew members.
On Tuesday, search teams will make the grim transition from a rescue mission to a body recovery operation.
The victims were probably asleep
Questions abound about why the boat caught fire and if lives could have been saved.
An emergency call reveals the tension between a Coast Guard dispatcher and the Conception captain. But only the words of the dispatcher could be heard.
The captain apparently reports a fire and provides a location. The dispatcher is heard saying: “And there are 33 people aboard the ship that is on fire, can't they get off? ... Understood, are they locked inside the boat? ... Understood, can you get back on board and unlock the boat, open the door so you can get off? … Understood, don't you have any fire extinguishing equipment? Without extinguishers or anything?
Later in the conversation, the dispatcher asks: “Was it the whole crew that jumped? ... Understood, is the boat completely involved at this time? … Understood, and isn't there an escape hatch for any of the people on board? ”
At one point, the caller says: "I can't breathe."
LOOK: The ship that caught fire in California was in the "worst possible scenario," according to the sheriff
Ventura County firefighters were able to reach the boat in 15 minutes, the Fire Department said.
But by then, it was engulfed in flames.
Firefighters struggled to extinguish the fire because every time it went out, the flames would come back on, perhaps due to fuel on board, said Aaron Bemis of the Coast Guard.
At 7:20 am, the ship began to sink. The boat had caught fire to the waterline, said Santa Barbara County fire spokesman Mike Eliason.
Many of the passengers were under the deck, most likely asleep when the fire started, authorities said.
None of the people who were on board have been identified.
The company that operates the Conception, Truth Aquatics, declined to comment to CNN.
An agonizing wait
James Kohls looked forward to knowing the fate of his brother, Mike Kohls, the cook and a sailor at the Conception.
"This moment is very surreal," he told reporters. "They were going to tell me if I was one of the survivors who got off."
He said that Mike Kohls, a lifelong surfer and father of a daughter, typically prepares breakfast for ship passengers around 4 am
Eliason, the spokesman for the Fire Department, said it is still possible that some passengers have survived. But the odds are against them.
"We still hope someone has swum to the shore," Eliason said.
“When they anchor during the night, they are quite close to the coast. We have to wait, but we plan for the worst case scenario. ”
CNN's Karan Olson, Phil Gast Paul Vercammen, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Amanda Watts, Alanne Orjoux and Poppy Harlow contributed to this report.