Investigators believe deadly California boat fire started on the second level

New details about boat fire investigation

Santa Barbara, California — Investigators told CBS News they increasingly believe a deadly fire on a California dive boat started on the ship's second level, known as the galley, trapping 34 people below deck. Their only two exits were blocked by fire, including a small escape hatch above a bunk bed.

Among the possible causes the NTSB is considering: Did lithium-ion batteries, used to power the passengers' underwater cameras, malfunction during charging and overheat?

"It surprised me how small it was, it surprised me how difficult it was to access," said NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy.

Officials said it's believed all 34 people were killed. On Wednesday, they said the bodies of 33 of the victims had been recovered.

Man who lost 5 family members in California boat fire: "You don't want to believe it"

In lengthy interviews with NTSB investigators, the surviving crew members described harrowing moments after the fire started.
 
"They tried to enter through the double doors and couldn't get in because of the flames. They tried to access the galley from the front, through the windows, but the windows wouldn't open and at some point, because of heat and smoke and fire, they had jumped from the boat," said Homendy.

The effort to raise the boat is being hampered by strong wings that are forecast over the next few days. One of the six crew members was supposed to have served as a night watchman. The NTSB is investigating to determine who that was and if they were on duty.

  • Kris Van Cleave

    Kris Van Cleave is the transportation correspondent for CBS News.