Crews Raise Wreckage of Dive Boat 10 Days After Fatal Fire Off Santa Cruz Island

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A Coast Guard crew raised the Conception from the sea floor and lifted it onto a barge off Santa Cruz Island on Thursday, 10 days after the boat burned and sank, killing 33 passengers and one crew member aboard. A crane on a barge lifted the charred remains of the vessel to the surface before it was placed on the barge. A salvage crew was set to take the boat ashore for inspection by investigators. The boat will be taken to an “undisclosed secure location” for investigation, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. The Los Angeles Times reported it will be taken to a naval facility, where U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators will examine its power, fuel and electrical systems. The dive boat sank in about 65 feet of water after it caught fire on Labor Day. With all six crewmembers asleep when the incident happened, Conception did not have an overnight watch as required, according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board earlier Thursday. Five crew members who survived the fire told investigators they made multiple attempts to save the people trapped below deck. The body of the last missing victim was recovered by a dive team on Wednesday, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office tweeted. DNA tests were used to identify all 34 victims, the sheriff said at a news conference Thursday. Investigators said the 13 male and 21 female victims appear to have died from smoke inhalation. Although the cause of the fire has not been determined, the Coast Guard issued new safety recommendations Wednesday. Those recommendations include limiting the unsupervised charging of lithium-ion batteries and the use of power strips and extension cords. Owners and operators were also asked to review emergency duties with the crew and identify emergency escapes and lifesaving equipment onboard. Investigations by the FBI, Coast Guard and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles are expected to take at least a year to complete. A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman had described recovering the boat as a slow and meticulous process. Officials were taking precautions to preserve as much of the ship as possible, the spokesperson said. Brown said that both the rescue and the salvage operations were particularly difficult and lengthy because of the boat’s relatively remote location, and because of the number of lives lost. “This was a very challenging case all around,” the sheriff said, thanking the first responders and the involved agencies for their efforts. “Theirs was a physically and emotionally challenging task.”

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