California boat fire: Authorities say victims likely died of smoke inhalation, not burns – USA TODAY
Thirty-four people died after a diving boat caught fire off Santa Cruz Island in California.
Victims in the tragic dive boat fire likely died of smoke inhalation, not burns, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Friday.
All the passengers and one crew memberÂ had been sleeping in tight quarters beneath the deck, and allÂ had signs of smoke inhalation. A preliminary examination shows they died before being burned.
Just four days after the Labor Day tragedy that left 34 people dead, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office alsoÂ released the names of nine victims.
Authorities said Friday they had identified 18 victimsÂ and contacted the next of kin for nine of them:
- Raymond Scott Chan, 59, of Los Altos
- Justin Carroll Dignam, 58, of Anaheim
- Daniel Garcia, 46, of Berkeley Â
- Marybeth Guiney, 51, of Santa Monica
- Yulia Krashennaya, 40, of Berkeley
- Alexandra Kurtz, 25, of Santa Barbara
- Caroline McLaughlin
- Ted Strom, 62, of Germantown, Tennessee
- Wei Tan, 26, of Goleta
Identifications require DNA analysis because of the fireâs intensity, Brown said. SinceÂ pathologists are convinced smoke inhalation is the primary cause of deathÂ there are noÂ plans to conduct traditional autopsies, Brown said, but medical examiners will a final determination.
Brown told reporters the families of all 34 victims have been contacted to collect DNA samples.Â He said there is noÂ criminal probe at this point, butÂ multiple investigations are underway into different aspects of theÂ fire.
The FBI helped with the effort across the U.S. and internationally. Brown said one relative was a mother in Japan, another was in Singapore and another flew in from India.
Teacher, biologist, nurse: These are some of the victims of the California boat fire
Salvage operations have begun on theÂ boat that burned and sunk off Santa Cruz Island, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has joined the investigation.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said Truth Aquatics, the owner of the nearly 80-foot boat, contracted Global Diving and Salvage to conduct the salvage operation under Coast Guard oversight.
Once the vessel is raised, it will be transferred to a crane barge and escorted by law enforcement to a secure location.
Environmental concerns will be mitigated in coordination with various agencies.
Although authorities have yet to release the names of all of the boat’s passengers, many of the victims’ families and friends spoke to local news outletsÂ and took to social media to mourn the passing of their loved ones. The victims include a teacher, biologist, nurse, high school students and more.
What happened on the Conception?
A predawn fire erupted Monday on the boat as it was filled with scuba enthusiasts on a three-day excursion. Five crew members escaped, but 34 people â 33 passengers and one crew member â are presumed dead, apparently after being trapped by the fire in the bunk area below deck.
Authorities say 33 of the bodies have been recovered. Crews are utilizing a range of equipment including remote-operated vessels and side-scan sonar to assist with efforts to find the last body. Â
The Coast Guard released helicopter footage of the California boat fire that killed dozens of people.
Meanwhile, members from the ATF’s National Response Team, along with special agents from the agency’s Los Angeles field division were activated Thursday to join the investigation into the fire.
Experts are due to arrive Friday and soon will process the scene to determine the cause and origin of the fire, the agency said in a news release.
Conception dive boat fire: Salvage begins as ATF joins investigation
Special agents and other experts are joining the investigation at the request of the Santa Barbara County Sheriffâs Office and will be working with the agency and the Coast Guard.
âATF is committed to working alongside local law enforcement its national partners by bringing its resources to determine the origin and cause of this fire that resulted in the tragic loss of 34 people,â Carlos A. Canino, special agent in charge of ATF’s Los Angeles field division, said in a news release. âATF will provide whatever is necessary to thoroughly investigate and provide answers to the victimsâ families.â
When requested, the National Response Team works with other investigators to reconstruct a scene, identify the sourceÂ of a blast or origin of a fire and determine the cause of an incident. In the case of bombings and arson cases, team members gather evidence to support criminal prosecutions.
The team is generally broken down into two components â a group that processes the scene and an investigative-lead element. In the course of the overall investigation, both components coordinate daily.
The National Transportation Safety Board is also conducting an investigation.
Contributing: Ventura County Star staff, Associated Press