U.S. NEWS

Body Of Last Missing Victim Of California Boat Fire Recovered

The Coast Guard also announced Wednesday that it had launched its highest-level marine casualty investigation into the fire, which left 34 people dead.

Rescue officials recovered the body of the last missing person who died after the Conception, a scuba diving vessel, caught fire in California, ending recovery efforts that spanned over a week.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced the final recovery on Wednesday and said that authorities were still conducting DNA tests to identify seven of the 34 victims who were trapped below deck at the time of the fire.

The U.S. Coast Guard also announced on Wednesday that it had formed a formal Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) and launched its highest-level marine casualty investigation into the fire.

A day earlier, the Coast Guard issued a bulletin to boat owners and operators, recommending a new set of firefighting guidelines and warning mariners of the dangers of lithium batteries.

The Coast Guard suggested that mariners limit “the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and extensive use of power strips and extension cords.” 

Despite the new recommendations, officials have not revealed whether they know the exact cause of the fire. The MBI’s investigation may take a year or more to complete.

The Conception, a 75-foot vessel, was on a three-day, live-aboard diving tour of islands in Southern California over the Labor Day weekend when it caught fire in the early hours of Monday morning.

The captain and four of the boat’s crew members, who were above deck at the time of the incident, told investigators that they tried multiple times to save the people who were sleeping in the bunkroom below, but said the fire in the galley was impassable, according to The Associated Press.

They eventually jumped ship and sought help from a nearby fishing boat.

The Coast Guard called off the search and rescue more than 24 hours after the fire broke out when it was clear that none of the 34 people trapped aboard, including one crew member, had survived.

The Coast Guard is deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred near Santa Cruz Island,” Capt. Jason Neubauer, chair of the Marine Board of Investigation, said in a statement Wednesday. “Our hearts go out to the victims, as well as their families and friends. The Coast Guard will conduct a thorough and detailed investigation to determine potential causal factors associated with this tragedy.”

CONVERSATIONS