Body of last missing victim in California boat fire found

Sept. 12 (UPI) — The body of the last missing victim from a deadly boat fire that killed 34 people last week off the California coast has been found, authorities said.

“Search and recovery efforts today were successful in locating the last victim,” the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday in a tweet.

The bodies of the other 33 victims were found within two days from when the ship caught fire early last Monday, killing all but five crew members who were able to escape the diving boat Conception as it became engulfed in flames.

The boat, owned by Truth Aquatics, was on a Labor Day dive trip off Santa Cruz Island when the incident occurred.

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

U.S. Coast Guard announced Wednesday that Rear Adm. Richard Timme has convened a formal Marine Board of Investigation, the highest-level marine casualty investigation, to prob the cause of the fire.

Consisting of four members, the board will investigate “all aspects of the casualty,” including pre-accident historical events, the regulatory compliance of the vessel and crew member duties and qualifications, among others, the Coast Guard said, adding that the investigation is expected to take a year to complete.

The fire is also being probed in a separate investigation by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in support of the Department of Justice’s investigation, the Coast Guard said.

Last week, authorities searched the offices and two boats of Truth Aquatics as part of the probe to see if the blaze was the result of a crime.

“The Coast Guard is deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred near Santa Cruz Island,” said Capt. Jason Neubauer, chair of the Marine Board of Investigation. “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.”

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