Divers find final body in California boat fire

Remigio Civitarese
Settembre 13, 2019

FILE - In this September 8, 2019 file photo, investigators check the Truth Aquatics office on the Santa Barbara Harbor in Santa Barbara, Calif. Authorities conducting a criminal investigation into the deadly scuba diving boat fire off the coast of Southern California last week plan to interview previous patrons of the boat company to determine what kind of safety information they were provided during trips, a law enforcement source said.

Authorities said they have found the body of the last missing victim from a deadly boat fire that killed 34 people last week off the California coast.

At 3:15 a.m., the U.S. Coast Guard and Ventura County Fire Department crews rushed to a mayday call that the Conception - a 75-foot-long charter dive boat carrying 39 people - was ablaze 20 yards off Platts Harbor on the north side of Santa Cruz Island, which is located about 30 miles west of the city of Ventura.

Seven of the bodies were still undergoing DNA testing to confirm their identities, the sheriff's office said.

The Coast Guard bulletin recommends that vessel owners "immediately" review crew training, make sure emergency escape routes are clearly identified and unobstructed and that required fire-fighting and live-saving equipment are on board.

The Coast Guard did not identify a cause of the fire in its safety bulletin, and the incident remains under investigation by multiple local and federal law enforcement agencies. They are collecting evidence and expected to interview the crew, witnesses and first responders, according to NTSB member Jennifer Homendy. They will also look into how the crew was trained and what crew members were doing at the time of the fire.

A woman relights a candle placed at a memorial for the victims of the Conception dive boat on the Santa Barbara Harbor on Sunday Sept. 8 2019 in Santa Barbara Calif. Authorities served search warrants Sunday at the Southern California company that
The Associated Press

The boat's design will also come under scrutiny, particularly whether a bunkroom escape hatch was adequate.

"At some point because of heat, smoke and fire they had to jump off the boat", she said.

"A Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) has been convened and will conduct a thorough and comprehensive marine casualty investigation to determine the causal factors that contributed to this tragic incident", the bulletin states.

A full report on what led to the calamity is not expected for over a year. A cause has yet to be determined. Authorities say the 21 women and 13 men apparently died of smoke inhalation.

Coast Guard records show the Conception passed its two most recent inspections with no safety violations.

On Sunday, search warrants were served for Truth Aquatics, the company that owned the diving boat, to investigate the offices and ships.

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