Charred Wreckage of Dive Boat Raised to the Surface as Authorities Officially Identify All Victims
The remnants of the charred California diving boat that set ablaze during a Labor Day weekend excursion has finally been brought to the surface.
The Coast guard and a salvage crew worked together on Thursday to lift what was left of the 75-foot Conception boat out of the deep waters off Santa Cruz Island, where the deadly fire broke out nearly two weeks ago.
Following its successful rise to the surface, salvage crews transported the diving boat to an “undisclosed, secure location for further investigation,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said during a press conference.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the Conception will be transported to a naval facility, where its power, fuel, and electrical systems will be examined by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators.
Brown stated that authorities have not yet determined a cause for the fire, but that “the investigation into the cause of this disaster will continue for some time to come.”
During the press conference, Brown also confirmed that all 34 victims from the deadly fire have been identified and their family members have been notified.
The final victim’s body was recovered on Wednesday, after being located in a cove near Platts Harbor.
The sheriff said 33 of those victims were identified through DNA comparisons while the final victim was identified through fingerprints, with DNA confirmation pending arrival of a familial DNA sample from overseas.
In addition to the boat surfacing and victim confirmation on Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report confirming that the five surviving crew members were asleep behind the wheelhouse on the boat’s uppermost sun deck, while one crew member slept alongside the 33 passengers in the bunk room on the lower deck.
Representatives for Truth Aquatics, which owned the Conception, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Investigators spoke with three of the crew members, who all said that no mechanical or electrical issues were reported.
The crew also detailed their final moments on the diving boat, which were spent attempting to rescue the people below deck, before they jumped overboard and were saved by a nearby boat called the Grape Escape.
The National Transportation Safety Board said investigators are looking at documents from recent inspections and have also visited a boat similar in shape and size to the Conception to potentially determine a cause of the fire.
The report confirmed that there were two smoke detectors in the bunkroom where the passengers were sleeping.
The Los Angeles Times previously reported that investigators were “taken aback” by the size of the ship’s emergency hatch.
“It surprised me how small it was and how difficult it was to access,” said Jennifer Homendy, who is overseeing the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation, adding that she and the investigators also had difficulty finding a light switch.
“I definitely have concerns about the ability of those passengers being able to evacuate during a fire,” she added.
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A day after the fire, Glen Fritzler, the owner and operator of Truth Aquatics, said that his team is temporarily ceasing operations after the “complete tragedy” on its boat.
“I’m numb,” said Fritzler — whose company has filed a lawsuit to limit victim payouts and has not yet returned PEOPLE’s requests for comment — in a phone interview with Spectrum News 1 on Sept. 3. “There were a lot of people that were on that boat that I knew personally, people that I had dealt with for decades.”