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Last missing victim of deadly dive boat fire recovered in Southern California

New details about boat fire investigation
New details about boat fire investigation 01:53

The last missing victim of the deadly dive boat fire off Santa Cruz Island that claimed the lives of 34 people was found Wednesday, CBS Los Angeles reported. The victims included 21 women and 13 men ranging from 16 to 62 years old who appear to have died from smoke inhalation. Five of the boat's crew members survived the blaze.

The Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office announced on Twitter that "The Conception Incident Unified Command is relieved to report that search and recovery efforts today were successful in locating the last missing victim. DNA testing is still being conducted to confirm identities of 7 of the 34 victims recovered."

Thirty-four people were killed after a blaze broke out on a charter boat early September 2 directly off Santa Cruz Island, across from the Ventura County coastline.

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.

Some of the crew members have told investigators they made multiple attempts to save people who were trapped below deck.

A diving vessel burns off the coast of Southern California on September 2, 2019.
A diving vessel burns off the coast of Southern California on September 2, 2019. Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Authorities have said they are looking at several factors in their investigation, including how batteries and electronics were stored and charged. They will also look into how the crew was trained and what crewmembers were doing at the time of the fire, which erupted in the middle of the night as the passengers slept.

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

The FBI, Coast Guard and U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles are conducting a criminal investigation, and the Coast Guard has convened a formal Marine Board of Investigation.

The four members of the board will look into "pre-accident historical events, the regulatory compliance of the Conception, crewmember duties and qualifications, weather conditions and reporting, safety and firefighting equipment, and Coast Guard oversight."

That investigation is expected to take at least a year. The panel will seek to determine the factors that led to the fire, any possible evidence of misconduct, inattention to duty, negligence or willful ignorance of the law, and if any other factors caused or contributed to the deaths.

Coast Guard records show the Conception passed its two most recent inspections with no safety violations. Previous customers said the company that owns the vessel, Truth Aquatics, and the captains of its three boats, were very safety conscious.

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