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Officials trying to solve mystery of burning boat off Venice beach

November 18, 2009 |  7:13 am

BoatThe Coast Guard was trying today to unravel the mystery of a boat found burning off the Venice pier Tuesday.

Helicopters this morning were searching the coastline for two people who might have been on board.

The Coast Guard and Los Angeles County Fire Department had dispatched vessels for the search, authorities said.

"We have a witness who saw two people on the boat," said Sgt. Bernie Patrick of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Marina del Rey station. "We no longer know where those people are."

Peck said that investigators are not sure whether there were actually people aboard -- but it's unclear how the boat got there. "That boat didn't drift out there by itself."

The 20-foot boat caught fire about two miles from the pier, authorities said. A column of dark smoke could be seen billowing from the vessel. The blaze was reported about 4:45 p.m.

Firefighting boats extinguished the flames, and authorities were preparing to tow the damaged vessel to shore.

--Robert J. Lopez

Photo: KTLA